Why Simone Biles' Vault Move Is Really So Dangerous

U.S. Olympics gymnast Simone Biles may go down in history as the greatest American gymnastics competitor of all time. She certainly hopes to, according to People: she recently had an image of a rhinestone goat sewn into her leotard, a reference to the four letters that make up the phrase "greatest of all time."

Part of Biles' legacy as possibly the greatest gymnast of her generation, if not of all time, is her willingness to take risks. And in June 2021, with just days to go before the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympicsdelayed one year due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — Biles was seen doing an exceptionally risky and dangerous move that, if she pulls it off during the olympiad, could even bear her name going forward.

However, if she fails, she could not only doom herself and her team's chances at gold, she could also risk never walking again.

The Yurchenko double pike can kill you

In the days and weeks before the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Biles was observed practicing — and nailing — a vault move known as the Yurchenko double pike. As The Washington Post reported, the move, named for Soviet gymnast Natalia Yurchenko, involves doing a round-off onto the springboard, followed by a back handspring onto the vault. From there, the gymnast launches into the air and does a flip — or in Biles' case, two and a half flips.

Variations of this maneuver have been attempted in olympiads and other gymnastics competitions over the decades, but Biles is amping up the difficulty with two and a half rotations. "You need the speed of the run and the height to get those two and a half rotations. And it's also dangerous if you don't do it correctly," said judge Emily Chan, via Yahoo! News. No female gymnast has ever performed it in competition, according to The Daily Mail.

If Biles lands it the wrong way, she could wind up with head or neck injuries that could prematurely end her career, if not her ability to walk. Further, according to Esquire, the move is so dangerous that judges, in an attempt to discourage it in competition, start with a lower base score for any gymnast attempting it. Fortunately, says the Post, she's been nailing the move with such ease at her training sessions that no one has even batted an eye.