Olympic Gymnastics: Here Are the New Skills You Can Expect to See in Rio

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Olympic Gymnastics: Here Are the New Skills You Can Expect to See in Rio

The sport of gymnastics is continually evolving. When the governing committee of the sport—the Federation of International Gymnastics (FIG)—changed the scoring system from the original 10-point system to an open scoring format, meaning there is no cap to how difficult any one routine can be, the green light was basically given to push for more difficulty and harder skills.

As the difficulty continues to grow, gymnasts aren’t just trying harder stills, they’re also inventing new ones. FIG just released five skills from the men’s side that have been submitted for approval for the next Code of Points. In order for a move to officially be put in the Code, it must be performed successfully in international competition. The Olympics, of course, are the biggest of such meets.

“New” is also a relative term in these scenarios. While these will be skills that have never been done before, gymnastics has been around long enough that there really isn’t any new way to flip or twist. Instead these are either variations of others or they add a flip or twist or both to another skill.

Shirai II (Vault)


Kenzo Shirai is known in Japan as “Mr. Twist” and “Twist Prince.” It’s easy to see why when watching his gymnastics. Shirai is the reigning World champion on floor and his routine is entirely made up of twisting skills, including his impressive back quadruple twist final pass. He does not have a single pass in the routine with a double-flipping element. Though he can perform a triple-twisting double layout, which is a “Shirai 3” on floor.

His twisting ability transfers over to vault, where his new skill will take place. There is already a “Shirai” on vault, which is a yurchenko (roundoff-back handspring entry) with three twists in flip off the table. His proposed skill will add another half twist to that. The vault will have a start value of 16.4, which is the highest start value given to a vault in the current code, along with four other vaults. One of those is a three and a half twisting vault with just a roundoff on the table, named for the 2012 gold medalist on vault, Yang Hak Seon of Korea.

Radivilov (Vault)


There is one potential vault that would be the hardest ever attempted. For a long time a front-handspring with a double front off the table—and variations from it—has been in staple in men’s gymnastics. Mostly twists have been added to it, such as a half turn at the end, first done by Romanian Marian Dragulescu.

Ukranian gymnast Ihor Radivilov will attempt to add a whole extra flip to the vault to try a front handspring triple-front. If completed, the vault would receive a 17.0 start, sixth-tenths higher than the current most difficult vault.

However, it’s not a guarantee this vault gets done successfully. There have been videos of Radivilov trying this vault in the practice gym and in podium training. In both vaults, Radivilov has not landed on his feet, which gives the potential for a score of 0.0. In order to get credit for a vault, a gymnast must at least land feet first before falling. With the training videos shared so far, there is a high possibility Radivilov won’t receive credit for the skill and it won’t be made official until done successfully in competition.

Nguyen (Parallel Bars)


Germany’s Marcel Nguyen was the silver medalist on parallel bars at the 2012 Olympics. His routine is loaded with difficulty and one of the most unique aspects is his mount. Nguyen is one of the few gymnasts in the world who perform a “free-hip” mount, circling his body around both bars into a handstand position on top. A free-hip is more commonly seen on high bar, where it is a basic skill. With just one bar, the act of circling around and shooting up to a handstand is quite simple. But on parallel bars, there is the obstacle of a second bar, which must be cleared in order to circle around the outside bar.

Nguyen has done the free-hip mount for some time and while he ends on one bar, he will do a quarter turn to a handstand on both bars to prepare for the rest of the routine. Nguyen’s new skill will add another half turn as he gets into the middle of the bar, for a total of a ¾-turn instead of just ¼.

In the code of points, each skill not done on vault, has a letter value. Each letter has a corresponding skill value for the group. An “A,” the most basic skill has a value of 0.1. A “B” is worth 0.2, and so on. This is how the difficulty score is put together. Nguyen’s skill has been given the value of an “E,” which makes it harder than the average skill in gymnastics and also makes it the hardest mount on the event.

Arican (Parallel Bars)


There’s another potential new skill on parallel bars, this one a dismount. The most common dismount off parallel bars is a double back in a piked position. It fulfills the “D”-level requirement for a dismount and can simply be done from swinging out of a handstand.

A forward flipping dismount is harder because a gymnasts is not allowed to have what is considered an “extra swing” coming out of a handstand. For a back dismount, a gymnast can swing down and release when his toes come up in the front of his swing. For a front dismount, a gymnast must perform a skill beforehand to keep momentum moving, typically a front uprise. With the extra skill needed, a double front dismount in a tucked position is worth an “E” (0.5), more than a piked double back. Ferhat Arican from Turkey will be performing a double front dismount in a piked position with a half twist at the end. The skill has already been added to the code at a “G” value, one of five such skills on the event, because Arican attempted the skill at Worlds, but was not given credit for the correct body position. However since he would still be the first to perform the skill, it will be named after him if done in Rio.

Bretschneider II (High Bar)


There’s arguably no more exciting event in gymnastics than high bar. Much of that is because of the release elements. Seeing flips and twists above and over the bar releases feelings of anxiety and thrill for all of those watching.

Germany’s Andreas Bretschneider is taking that to another level. Bretschneider will be attempting what will be considered the hardest skill in gymnastics. It is a release skill that involves two flips and two twists over the bar in a layout (straight body) position. The skill has been given an “I” value, while the current code only has skills that go up to “H.”

Bretschneider already has a skill named after him on high bar, which is a version of this skill in a tucked position https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FJkKwtRynQ that he debuted in 2014. The new skill is the first done in his routine and has been done well in practice leading up to the Olympics.

Dan Pizzuta is a freelance writer and former Division I gymnast at Temple University.