Over the last quad, no skill has had a stronger allure than the Amanar. An extremely difficult vault with a huge 6.5 start value (though that has been lowered for this quad to 6.3) that has the potential to be a huge asset for any team. This is a Yurchenko vault. The Yurchenko vault starts with the gymnast doing a round-off onto the springboard and jumping backwards to place her hands on the vault. From here, in an Amanar, the gymnast completes 2.5 twists during the somersault in her flight from the vault to the mat. For many gymnasts, just the double twist is a difficult enough vault to manage. Adding another twist is a much, much bigger feat than it sounds. It requires more power, so you have more time in the air to compete the extra half twist. It requires good aerial awareness. It requires you to land forward, which is a ‘blind’ landing, in that the gymnasts does not see the mat before she hits it.
In 2010, the Russian team won the World Championships thanks to two, albeit sloppy, Amanars – from Tatiana Nabieva and Aliya Mustafina. Aliya would go on to win the All Around title by a full point over the silver medalist, Jiang Yuyuan, boosted by the advantage the vault score gave her, as well as her general all-around prowess. Next year, however, Aliya would tear her ACL competing that same vault at the European Championships – proving that though the vault has the potential to be a huge advantage for a gymnast, it is still incredibly dangerous to perform.
Which leads us to the question: why do gymnasts train this vault – and at a rapidly increasing rate? Sure, it is a huge asset – the 6.5 start value in the last quad was a massive seven tenths higher than the double twisting Yurchenko (5.8 start value) – when it is performed correctly but it is also extremely risky. Is training and competing a vault that could result in serious injury really worth it? For most teams, the answer seems to be yes. Take a look at the USA, for instance. Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney were competing this vault as thirteen year olds in 2009. Compare this to the vault’s namesake, Simona Amanar, who first competed this vault in the 2000 Olympic Games as a twenty one year old woman.
While Romania’s Simona Amanar’s vault was not perfect, it was an incredible feat for her to compete such a difficult vault and be the first woman to do so. When we look at Simona’s history competing vault, it is not surprising that she was the first to perform this vault: in 1996, she won the Olympic title on this apparatus and she was the world champion in 1995 and 1997. Thus, it was fitting for her to be the one to climb that proverbial mountain. Despite the fact that other gymnasts have competed this vault with greater success, her bravery and risk must not be forgotten and while Simona may never have won a vault championship using this vault, her compatriot, Monica Rosu, did go on to win the 2004 Olympic vault title and she performed one of the best executed Amanars in history in order to do so. Meaning, while Simona’s risk did not result in her personal gain, it did result in an Olympic gold medal for her country.
When asked, many gymnasts will credit Cheng Fei and McKayla Maroney with performing this skill best. Cheng Fei dominated the vault for three years – she was world champion on this event in 2005, 2006, and 2007. McKayla’s Amanar is it’s equal – the 2011 World Champion on vault has amazed gymnastics fans, coaches, and judges with her incredible height off the vaulting table and her near perfect execution of this skill.
Further, there has been a tremendous amount of US juniors competing this vault – such as 2012 Junior National Champion Lexie Priessman and the 2012 Junior US National Vault Champion Simone Biles. Other American gymnasts to attempt this include Kyla Ross, Alexandra Raisman, and, of course, 2012 Olympic All-Around Champion Gabby Douglas. Russia demonstrated desperation for gymnasts who could compete the Amanar prior to the Olympics. Out of the top four teams – the USA, Russia, Romania, and China – the only team who has not joined this trend of desperately “chasing” the Amanar is, ironically enough, Romania. While Simona Amanar took a massive risk when she competed this vault for the first time in 2000, Romania has not produced a gymnast with an Amanar this quad. Though there were rumors of Larisa Iordache training this vault and, at one point, 2012 Olympic Vault Champion Sandra Izbasa was rumored to have an Amanar in the works as well, no Romanian competed an Amanar.
Despite the fact that this skill is being downgraded, there is no doubt that teams will continue to desperately seek out gymnasts to compete the Amanar. This determination that these teams are demonstrating to be on the podium is bound to have mixed results. This quad we watched McKayla Maroney perform incredible Amanars time and again – including her perfect vault in the team final at the Olympic Games. Still, we also watched Aliya Mustafina suffer an incredibly serious injury performing this same vault. As this trend continues – this trend of risking everything for glory – it is going to come at a high cost, though it’s a guarantee that we will see some incredible gymnastics along the way. Still, something we all have to analyze is whether or not it is worth that risk – it’s always a fifty-fifty chance that we will witness an injury or something amazing. This extraordinary, extremely difficult and risky vault can offer us nothing but that.
Watch some Amanars over history;
Cheng Fei – Amanar
McKayla Maroney – Amanar
Simona Amanar – Vault
Simona Amanar – Amanar
Monica Rosu – Amanar
Jordyn Wieber – Amanar
Aliya Mustafina – Amanar
Tatiana Nabieva – Amanar
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Article: Rachel MacGrath
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