Why the Yurchenko Double Pike Vault Is Such a Big Deal

Getty / Emilee Chinn / Stringer

We never forget how amazing Simone Biles is. Except sometimes we do kind of forget just how dominant Simone Biles is in her sport – until we remember that she’s nailing moves other gymnasts aren’t even attempting. In 2019, she became the first woman to land a triple-double in a floor routine, for instance. That same year, she debuted a double-twisting double backflip beam dismount. As if we needed more proof of how unreal these feats were, both moves were ultimately named after Biles. Not to belabor the point, but in 2021, Simone Biles rocked the gymnastics world when debuting yet another skill never before competed by a woman athlete: a Yurchenko double pike.

You can watch it in action here, then read on for a break-down of exactly what the Yurchenko double pike is and why it’s so important.

Experts Featured in This Article

Emily Chan is a women’s artistic gymnastics judge with the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and a former gymnast.

What Is Simone Biles’s Yurchenko Double Pike Vault?

In gymnastics, a Yurchenko, named after former Soviet gymnast Natalia Yurchenko, consists of a roundoff onto the springboard followed by a back handspring onto the vault. Biles then does two backflips with straight legs (hence the “double pike”). Technically speaking, Biles’s body is flipping through the air two and a half times if you count the fact that she has to push off of her hands from the vaulting table.

Biles was expected to attempt the vault at the Tokyo Olympics after practicing the move during on-site training before the 2020 Games began. But she didn’t have a chance to perform the skill in competition before she withdrew due to experiencing the twisties.

She got her chance to land the Yurchenko double pike in 2023 during the World Championships. Biles busted out the skill during the qualifying round and landed it successful, the first woman athlete to ever do so. The move was then named after her: the Biles II on Vault.

Emily Chan, a women’s artistic gymnastics judge with the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and former gymnast, tells to PS that from a physical perspective, many things make the skill difficult. “First of all, you need the speed of the run and the height to get those two and a half rotations,” Chan said. “And it’s also dangerous if you don’t do it correctly. So for Simone, she does it very safely, so that’s amazing.”

When Biles debuted the vault for the first time in competition at the 2021 GK US Classic – wearing a leotard adorned with a goat for her “greatest of all time” title – she bounced out of it a bit, proving that she has even more power than necessary. Chan mentioned that, of the few men who perform it, you rarely see them execute the vault with that much power, and they don’t over-rotate a Yurchenko double pike like Biles does.

Note: on the men’s side, the Yurchenko double pike is named after China’s Yang Wei, which you’ll find in the Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Code of Points for 2022 through 2024.

Why Does Simone Biles Do a Yurchenko Double Pike Vault?

Biles’s Yurchenko double pike has the highest difficulty score (D-score that’s added the execution score) for a women’s vault in gymnastics. The judges at the GK US Classic gave Biles’s Yurchenko double pike a provisional value of 6.6, and at Worlds the judges gave it a value of 6.4. There are also points deducted if her coach stands on the landing mat while Biles performs the move; but because it’s so dangerous, in the past the athlete has decided to take the deduction.

Both Biles and US women’s national team coordinator Tom Forster have argued that the D-score given was too low. Biles expressed the same sentiments over a score assigned to her double-twisting double-backflip beam dismount after the FIG Women’s Technical Committee said they took into consideration the risk associated with the dismount. “They had an open-ended code of points and now they’re mad that people are too far ahead and excelling,” Biles stated in May, according to The New York Times.

Biles will continue to challenge what is possible in her sport, and everyone’s looking forward to see what’s next for the incredible athlete. She already has high-scoring routines – she fell on bars and put her hands down on floor during the GK US Classic and still won the all-around by over a full point – so she doesn’t realistically need to up her game. However, that’s exactly what she’ll do because, as she told The New York Times in 2021, “I can.”

– Additional reporting by Mirel Zaman

Samantha Brodsky is a former assistant editor at POPSUGAR. She uses her gymnast background to inform her sports and fitness coverage, powering through Peloton videos in her free time.

Mirel Zaman is the health and fitness director at PS. She has 15 years of experience working in the health and wellness space, writing and editing articles about fitness, general health, mental health, relationships and sex, food and nutrition, astrology, spirituality, family and parenting, culture, and news.

Related Posts
Latest Fitness
The End.

The next story, coming up!