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Vault (gymnastics)


Vault (gymnastics)

The vault is an artistic gymnastics apparatus on which gymnasts perform, as well as the skill performed using that apparatus. Vaulting is also the action of performing a vault. Both male and female gymnasts perform the vault. The English abbreviation for the event in gymnastics scoring is VT.

The apparatus

Original vaulting horse configuration (women)
Original vaulting horse configuration (men)

Early forms of the vault were invented by German Friedrich Ludwig Jahn. The apparatus itself originated as a "horse", much like the pommel horse but without the handles; it was sometimes known as the vaulting horse. The horse was set up with its long dimension perpendicular to the run for women, and parallel for men.[1] The vaulting horse was the apparatus used in the Olympics for over a century, beginning with the Men's vault in the first modern Olympics and ending with the Gymnastics at the 2000 Summer Olympics.

The horse has been blamed for several serious accidents over the years. In 1988, American Julissa Gomez was paralyzed in a vaulting accident; she died from complications from her injuries three years later.[2] During warmups at the 1998 Goodwill Games, Chinese gymnast Sang Lan fell and suffered paralysis from a cervical-spine injury.[3] In a series of crashes when the horse's height was set too low[4] at the 2000 Olympics, gymnasts either rammed into the horse's front end, or had bad landings after having problems with their hand placements during push-off.

Following the 1988, 1998 and 2000 problems, International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) re-evaluated and changed the apparatus, citing both safety reasons and the desire to facilitate more impressive acrobatics.[1] The 2001 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships were the first international competition to make use of the "vaulting table", an apparatus made by Dutch gymnastics equipment company Janssen-Fritsen since the mid-1990s. It features a flat, larger, and more cushioned surface almost parallel to the floor, which slopes downward at the end closest to the springboard; gymnasts nicknamed it the "tongue";[1] it appears to be somewhat safer than the old apparatus.[5]

In 2007, Dutch junior gymnast Imke Glas was seriously injured after a fall on a vault.[6]


Modern vaulting table
  • Length: 120 centimetres (3.9 ft) ± 1 centimetre (0.39 in)[7][8]
  • Width: 95 centimetres (3.12 ft) ± 1 centimetre (0.39 in)[7][8]
  • Height:
    • Men: 135 centimetres (4.43 ft) ± 1 centimetre (0.39 in)[8]
    • Women: 125 centimetres (4.10 ft) ± 1 centimetre (0.39 in)[8]
  • Run up area:
    • Length: 2,500 centimetres (82 ft) ± 10 centimetres (3.9 in)[7][8]
    • Width: 100 centimetres (3.3 ft) ± 1 centimetre (0.39 in)[7][8]


A multiple-exposure image of a gymnast performing a vault (handspring double front salto tucked) during the 2012 Olympics.

To perform a vault, the gymnast runs down a runway (the run), which is usually padded or carpeted. They hurdle onto a springboard and spring onto the vault with their hands (the preflight or first flight, and block). For vaults in the Yurchenko family, the gymnast will put their hands onto a mat that is placed before the springboard, round-off onto the board and do a back handspring onto the vault. The off-flight may be as simple as leaping over the apparatus or as complicated as executing several twists and turns in the air. The gymnast then lands on the mat on the other side of the apparatus.

Scoring and rules

Gymnasts are expected to land cleanly, with no hops or steps, and within a set landing zone on the landing mat.[9][10] They must also demonstrate good technique and execution in the actual vault. Falling or stepping on landing incurs deduction, as will lack of height off the table, or distance from the table.[10][11]

Gymnasts (both male and female) show one vault in Qualification, Team Final, and All Around Final.[10][12] In the Apparatus Finals gymnasts must show two vaults.[10][12] For men, the two vaults must be from different element groups,[12] while women must show two vaults with different repulsion from the vault table.[10]

Apparatus specific rules

Yurchenko style vaults must have a safety collar in place. Gymnasts who do not use this collar will be judged as an invalid vault.[10][11]

Every vault is assigned a specific number; this number is displayed on a board or electronic screen before the gymnast begins. Gymnasts will be penalised if they fail to show the number of their intended vault, though there is no penalty if the vault ends up being different (e.g. not performing enough twists).[10][12]

If a female gymnast balks, for example stops in the middle of the runway or breaks their run before touching the springboard, no deductions are taken. The gymnast is given thirty seconds to return to the end of the runway and make a second attempt at the vault. If, however, the gymnast touches any portion of the springboard or vault itself, they receive a score of zero and may not make another attempt.[10] Ekaterina Kramarenko touched the vault and was given a zero during the team final at the 2007 World Championship. Male gymnasts receive a score of 0 if they do not vault once they start running.[11] Both male and female gymnasts receive a score of 0 if they fail to land on their feet first.[10][11]

Receiving spotting assistance from a coach, or not touching the vault table will result in a score of 0.[10][11] Vaulting before the judge has signaled the gymnast can vault once also resulted in a score of 0; this deduction has since been removed. An example of this would be at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games to Anna Pavlova during the Vault event final on her second vault.

Judging and scoring

Because the vault is completed so quickly it helps if there are cameras to play back in slow motion if they are unsure or if all the judges have a wide range of scores. It is the head judges' job to make sure all the scores are within a certain range, usually 0.2 point range difference. Judges look through four main phrases: the pre-flight, support, after-flight and landing. The overall vault of a gymnast should have power, speed, while being explosive and precise as possible.[13]

Within the two vaults women perform, they receive a combined average score of the two. Scoring has become very different in these past years. No event is scored out of ten. The new system was designed in 2005, where the judges are looking for the difficulty of the routine and the amount of executions made combine to gather the final score. The difficulty is added with every skill performed, as each skill has its own value, the harder the skill the higher the start value. The execution is out of 10.0, looking at the form, height, length and the landing.[13] Then in 2009, FIG made some changes to try to put less pressure on the difficulty and shorten the amount of skills required, making the gymnasts focus harder to perfect minimizing executions.[14]

Vault families

Vault styles are broken into various groups. The group a vault style fits into is determined by the action performed during the vaulting movement.

In the USA Program, level fives and sixes do front handsprings on vault. Level fours do handstand flatbacks on vault. Level seven all the way to elite can perform a variety of vaults.


  1. ^ a b c What's With That Weird New Vault?, an August 2004 "Explainer" article from Slate
  2. ^ "Tales from the vaults" Rebecca Seal,Guardian Unlimited December 4, 2005
  3. ^ "Smiling Sang Lan" Xinhua News Agency, August 29, 2003
  4. ^ "Vault mixup could have cost gymnast medal" ESPN September 28, 2000
  5. ^ "Vault: Everything You Need to know about Vault". Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  6. ^ "EenVandaag: Het wonder Imke Glas" (in Dutch). 2008-07-08. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Apparatus Norms" (PDF).  
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Apparatus Norms" (PDF).  
  9. ^ "MAG Code of Points 2009-2012" (PDF).  
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "WAG Code of Points 2009-2012" (PDF).  
  11. ^ a b c d e "MAG Code of Points 2009-2012" (PDF).  
  12. ^ a b c d "MAG Code of Points 2009-2012" (PDF).  
  13. ^ a b "Women's Artistic". Gymnastics Ontario. 
  14. ^ "Olympic Gymnastics:Women's Gymnastics Rules and Judging". 

External links

  • Apparatus Norms at the FIG website
  • Vaulting horse
  • Description of gymnastics technique by animation
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