How to Judge the Gymnastics Front Handspring Vault
How to Judge the Gymnastics Front Handspring Vault?
Probably one of the hardest events for parents and gymnastics fans to understand is the vault – the event that seems to be over before it ever even starts. How many times have you watched a front handspring vault and thought it looked amazing, and then felt totally confused when the score posts and it’s a low 8? Every meet I’ve ever been to I’ve heard, “Well, I don’t really know what the judges are looking for; that looked great to me.” Let’s take the surprises out of your next spectating experience and break down exactly what the judges are looking for during the front handspring vault.
The Three Phases of the Gymnastics Vault:
Before you can really understand vault deductions, you must understand the three phases of vault.
Phase 1: Pre-Flight – The pre-flight phase of a vault begins as soon as the gymnasts’ feet leave the spring board and ends when the gymnast impacts the vault table with their hands.
Phase 2: Support Phase – The support phase includes the entire time the gymnasts’ hands are on the vault table.
Phase 3: Post-flight – The post-flight phase begins as soon as the gymnasts’ hands leave the vault table and ends as soon as their feet hit the floor and stop moving.
There are some vault deductions that can occur in all three phases of the vault. These include body position such as a pike or an arch, bent and separated legs, flexed feet, and shoulder angle.
Arch – up to 0.03 deduction in EACH phase. If the gymnast is arched in all three phases, she can lose up to 0.09 just for her body position!
Pike – up to 0.05 deduction in EACH phase.
Bent knees – up to 0.03 deduction in EACH phase
Leg separation – up to 0.20 deduction in EACH phase
Flexed feet – up to 0.01 deduction in EACH phase
As you can clearly see, the deductions on vault can rack up really quickly if your gymnast has a correction that occurs throughout all 3 phases of the vault.
There also are deductions that are phase specific. The following deductions occur only in a specific phase of the vault.
Pre-flight deductions - Most of the pre-flight deductions are taken from body shape and already have been listed.
Support phase deductions- The biggest deductions that occur during the support phase are the contact time deductions. The longer it takes a gymnast to block off the table, the higher the deduction will be up to 0.05. This has a direct relationship to the next major support phase deduction, angle of exit. If the gymnast exits the table after vertical but before 45-degrees, she will lose up to 0.05 deduction. If she leaves the table between 45-degrees and 90-degrees, she will lose between 0.55 and 1.00 deduction. The longer it takes the gymnast to block, the lower her angle of exit will be.
Bent arms also are a common deduction that occur only during the support phase of the vault. The gymnast can lose up to 0.05 deduction for bent arms.
Post-flight deductions – During post-flight, a gymnast can lose up to 0.08 for amplitude. So, she can lose up to 0.05 points for not having enough height off the table and up to 0.03 points for landing too close to the vault table in relation to her hand placement on the table.
The judges also have several deductions they are looking for on the landing. There are about 1.2 points that can be taken from a vault on the landing alone. If the gymnast lands her vault in a squat position with her chest low, she can lose up to 0.03 depending on the depth of the squat. She can lose up to 0.04 for steps taken on the landing and up to another 0.03 for alignment with the vault. If the gymnast lands to the left or right of center, it is a deduction. Finally, extra arm movements and upper body adjustments on the landing can result in up to 0.02 points off.
As you can see from this list of potential infractions, that quick and seemingly simple handspring vault really leaves a lot of room for deductions in a very short time frame. So, next time you see a “great” vault at a meet and the score seems low…now you know why!
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