A tribute to shite second vaults

Back in the day, gymnasts didn’t actually need to have two vaults to make the final. You had to do the compulsory as well as an optional vault to qualify of course, but a second optional vault wasn’t actually needed until the EF itself.

Even in the 97-00 quad, when gymnasts had to do two different vaults (although not necessarily from different families) in TFs and AA, you could do the same two in prelims, and some gymnasts did. That’s how Khorkina qualified for the Sydney vault final, even though at that time she wasn’t training a vault from a non-Omelianchik entry.

She, unlike some of the gymnasts we are about to feature, had the dignity to sit it out when she knew she was going to look like shit. The result was a 1-2 for Mother Russia and more time for her to prepare for bars. A good decision.

It wasn’t until 2002 that gymnasts who wanted to qualify for vault finals had to show two different vaults from two different families. This has led to one of the very few ways in which the sport is better now than it was 20 years ago.

Before that, it was possible to get to the final without even having a second vault, and there was usually one in every final who looked like she’d just learned hers that morning. It was embarrassing. I’m not talking about athletes like Boginskaya, Mo Huilan and Amanar, who had legitimate second vaults that just weren’t as good as their first choices. No. I mean the people who genuinely shouldn’t have bothered. Taking a 0 is more dignified than some of this caca.

Here are my top 5 piss poor second vaults, in no particular order:

1. Kim Zmeskal, 1992 Olympics

Poor Kimbo. How could someone with as much power as her underrotate a fucking cannonball? Even if she’d stood it up, it still would’ve been a pretty crap efforts by the standards of the time.

This is particularly frustating when one considers that she was training a piked barani in 1990. It got chacked to concentrate on AA routines. Understandable I guess, but Kim was a superb vaulter. Her FTY and compulsory vault were excellent. If she’d spent time training a second vault, maybe she’d have got that Olympic gold after all.

2. Fan Di, 1989 world vault final, tucked Tsuk with no height

It’s no coincidence that Cheng Fei was born the year after this crapfest. The universe understood that China needed her.

3. Ashley Miles, 2001 world final

There’s no footage of this on youtube, but it was such a letdown that I’m including it anyway. A gymnast capable of this:

… managed to sit down a cannonball. She was evidently challenging her inner Zmeskal.

4. Ludmilla Ezhova, 2001 worlds AA

Technically this one maybe shouldn’t be on the list, since it’s not from an apparatus final. Ezhova, to her credit, knew she couldn’t vault for shit and was never so shameless as to prove that to the world in a major final.

However, this is such a quitters try that it deserves highlighting. Remember that in 2001, gymnasts still had to do two different vaults in the AA. Ludmilla however vaulted the same dumpover of a tucked Omelianchik, twice, and sat both down.

Actually I’m impressed that she didn’t even bother to try a second vault- on the evidence of her first, it would’ve been an epic fail, so why bother. Kudos, Ludmilla. The rest of the featured gymnasts should perhaps have followed your lead.

5. This is actually my favourite:

Meng Fei, bless her, was a late substitution into the 1995 world vault final and had about five minutes notice. I don’t know if they knew she was going to get a 0 for repeating the compulsory vault and she just decided she wanted to have a go anyway, or if this was yet another case of China not reading the rules, 2003 warming up on the podium style. Either way, the result was a final score of 4.831. I still love her though, and urge anyone who hasn’t already to go and watch her 1997 floor routine, repeatedly.

Notice that two of these gymnasts are American, and it was going to be more. There’s a reason for this. I had planned to include either Miller in 96 or Bhardwaj in 2001 as well, but was seduced by the absolute lack of effort shown by Ezhova, and felt it deserved mentioning.

However, the point I was going to make it that although the US have won the last two world vault titles, it used to be a weaker event for them. This appears to have been related to the decision not to train second vaults very much. It is not a coincidence that the US started winning lots of medals on vault as soon as this mindset changed somewhat. If Sacramone had been given the vault bronze in Beijing that she actually earned, the US would have a podium streak back to 2004, the furthest back of any country in any event final. And if Zmeskal were competing today, maybe she too would be world vault champion.

Posted by Clara


7 responses to “A tribute to shite second vaults

  • Stoi!

    That’s a very good question.

    If you must do a front handspring, at least do it like Sacramone.

  • betweentheolympics

    I think this will always be my favorite second vault:

    Score: 10.625. Difficulty: 2.4. Execution: 8.225.
    How can an elite get such a low execution score on a front handspring?

  • Anon

    Oh I think Miller definitely deserved a mention. She qualified first for finals at Barcelona! At least Zmeskal could keep her legs together on her cannonball. Shannon thought she was John Wayne mounting a horse.

  • Stoi!

    Oh God, I forgot about Ezhova’s gross assed vaults from ’01. I love that she did the same vault twice anyway, and seemed genuinely humored by herself.


  • Stoi!

    Good call, both of you. I think I’d blocked out the 2009 bars final. And I was there!

  • Marcus

    “If Sacramone had been given the vault bronze in Beijing that she actually earned, the US would have a podium streak back to 2004, the furthest back of any country in any event final.”

    Actually, at least 1 US gymnast has made the UB podium every year since 2001.

    2001 – Heenan
    2002 – Kupets
    2003 – Vise, Memmel
    2004 – Humphrey, Kupets
    2005 – Liukin, Memmel
    2006 – Liukin
    2007 – Liukin
    2008 – Liukin
    2009 – Bross
    2010 – Bross

  • Rachel

    Li Yan might get an honourable mention too? 1991 Worlds her appearance in the VT final was sad in the extreme and she seemed rather embarrassed about being there. Kudos for wearing a different colourway of THE seeminly one and only CHN leo from 1990-1994 tho – personally I think it looked beautiful in white.

    Always did had a soft spot for Ezhova and her vaults in 2001 made me love her all the more. Bless.

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