That Wonky Second Vault

6:33 PM Arabian Punch Front 5 Comments

McKayla Maroney will undoubtedly be on the list of greatest vaulters of all time which includes athletes like Oksana Chusovitna, Cheng Fei, and fellow American Alicia Sacramone. However, as time goes on, it is likely that her position as the greatest vaulter at the moment will be threatened. The more we see slow motions of her Amanar vault, the more we notice the slight break in form and the harder she pushes for the stick, the worse the potential landing errors seem to be.

My biggest issue with calling Maroney the greatest vaulter of all time has very little to do with her Amanar, the vault that made her irreplaceable to the 2012 Olympic team and made her famous around the world for sticking it in team final. It has a lot to do with her 2nd vault, the round off half on, full twist off. This vault is sometimes called a Mustafina although it is not officially named for Aliya Mustafina in the Code of Points nor was she the first one to compete it. Something about that vault always rubbed me the wrong way and the best I could do was describe it as wonky. It wasn't until PQST made some screen caps comparing Maroney's block to Simone's that helped me realize what it was. Simone competes a round off half on, half twist off which is sometimes called a laid out Podkopayeva (who did it piked) or a Lopez.


credit: PQST

"Simone has a FAR superior block & technique on the roundoff 1/2 on entry than McKayla. If you look at them head on from behind the table, McKayla’s hands make contact with the table before she completes the 1/2 turn and therefore she blocks with her shoulders at different angles, one hand in front of the other and doesn’t get the height or rotation that she should. Simone, on the other hand, completes the 1/2 turn fully before her hands make contact and push off the table and gets a much cleaner, higher block. Out of the two, I’d say Simone is much more likely to master a good Cheng. The difference in their shoulder angles is pretty remarkable, IMO." - The Pushy Queen of Slut Town (PQST) on tumblr for quotes and screen caps

Aliya Mustafina attempted to qualify for vault finals with 2 vaults. We must not forget that Mustafina has now medaled on every event, earning a vault silver at the 2010 World Championships with an Amanar and Yurchenko 1/2 on, full off vault. Here, she did her DTY and attempted the same second vault that Maroney competes. At one point, I thought she had a better block than Maroney. The video I saw was here (embedding disabled) but then this picture came along.


PQST points out how far forward Aliya's head is compared to her hands here. Mustafina ended up falling on this second vault and failed to qualify for the event finals. I think the reason this seemed better in motion was the fact that Mustafina was relatively square in her hand-shoulder angle.

I said relatively...

The more and more I saw Maroney do the Yurchenko 1/2 on vault and the more I had to watch the Russians compete pretty piked Lopez's, the more frustrated I got with this vault family as a whole. Then, precious Simone Biles comes forward with an Amanar that can rival Maroney's and the best Lopez I've seen in a long time.



So, now the battle is on. Will Aliya continue competing 2 vaults with hopes of making event finals? Which gymnast will compete the triple twisting Yurchenko of Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and North Korea's Hong Un Jong? Hong already has the Cheng, yurchenko 1/2 on, 1.5 off, as her second vault. Will the 2 Americans be joining her? Both Biles and Maroney say they're training the Cheng - Maroney saying she's working on adding an extra half twist to both vaults and a training video exists of Biles doing the Cheng into a pit.

Do you think Biles will be able to surpass Maroney with the Cheng vault? Do you think Russians Maria Paseka or Ksenia Afanasyeva will look at upgrading their second vault?

Here's Simone's Cheng at 0:40: csnhouston.


  1. I think Aliya was mostly competing 2 vaults because Maria Paseka was competing. Also she won a silver on vault in 2010. Thanks for the post!

  2. Biles is the best vaulter around currently. That Lopez is just textbook, perfect technique on the block and lovely and floaty in the air. Maroney at this stage is fighting her second vault around, relying on power and probably the memory of what happened last year. As for amanars, comparisons have shown that they are very equal- with Maroney staying in the air a fraction longer, but the height much the same. In person, Maroney's block is more impressive still but Biles' amanar has less significant form errors, not to mention landing dead centre pretty much all the time.

  3. I like Biles vaults better overall, Biles almost always lands the amanar in the center of the mat, and Maroney doesn't. That is probably because Maroney tends to twist a bit to early. But in slow-mo Maroneys amanar is prettier to look at, she lands straighter i think. And the second vault Biles wins. Biles I think has also been seen to work on 3 other vaults. So next year, the vaunt gold can realy go to anyone, Maroney, Biles, Jong and I would not count Mustafina out, she tends to be full of surprices. and has previousley won a world silver on vault.

  4. What do you think about Maroney's Lopez in 2011? It looked quite good to me.