It’s no secret that skills go in and out of style faster than you can say “Tsukahara.” Between upgrades that make simpler skills obsolete, changing trends, and banned skills, fans know the skills they love seeing performed today will likely become irrelevant down the road.
These ever-changing fads aren’t a bad thing, since they keep the sport interesting, force gymnasts to improve, and make it fascinating to look back on where the sport has been while wondering about where it is headed! Here are 5 skills that we don’t see as frequently as we used to, but are no doubt still some fan favorites.
1. Korbut Flip
Named after Olga Korbut, this iconic skill turns heads for both longtime fans and newcomers alike. The skill is executed by standing on the high bar facing the low bar, jumping back into the air, doing a backflip, re-grabbing the bar, and ultimately swinging towards the low bar. Standing on the bar is now banned in the Code of Points because it disrupts the flow of the routine, but Korbut performed this skill many times before the ban, including in the 1972 Olympics. While traditionally done on bars, the Korbut Flip also had a beam variation, done by completing a back handspring with a high flight in the beginning, then swinging down to a straddle position on the beam.
2. Roll-Out Skills
Any skill to which a gymnast adds a half salto and rolls out of rather than completing a full flip to their feet is considered a roll-out skill. An example of a roll-out skill is the Thomas Salto, named after Kurt Thomas. The Thomas Salto is a back salto with 1.5 flips and 1.5 twists that the gymnast rolls out of at the end before standing up. Roll-out skills have been banned in women’s gymnastics for a while because of how precise the landing must be in order to avoid neck injury. They were banned in men’s gymnastics as well in the 2017-2020 Code of Points because of the same safety concerns. This difficult landing has caused injuries for multiple gymnasts, most notably Elena Mukhina, who broke her neck and became quadriplegic because of the Thomas Salto. Many male and female gymnasts competed for roll-out skills before the bans, such as when the Thomas Salto was showcased by He Xuemei at the 1992 Olympics.
3. Quad Series
A quad series, which is any series with four elements in a row on beam, was performed by many gymnasts in the 1980s and early ’90s. Many gymnasts did a combination of back handsprings and layouts in varying orders, some even combining the quad series with their mount! Gymnasts stopped performing a quad series when the 1997 Code of Points came into effect, changing the rules on what counted as a connection bonus and therefore lowering the value of these skills. As a result of these changes, gymnasts today usually complete three skills in a series rather than four.
4. Most Vault Skills
Many vaults that used to compete at high levels are no longer seen as advanced within the sport. Since vault has gone through a large transformation in difficulty, these skills have not disappeared, but they are only competed in lower levels due to their simplicity. Vaults used to be very basic, with many gymnasts simply competing for a front handspring vault or a Yamashita. A Yamashita or “Yami,” as they were referred to, was a front handspring vault where the gymnast touched their toes and went into a pike position before landing. To switch it up, gymnasts sometimes did a Yami with a half twist or a twisting front handspring, but there was not much variation in the ’70s. Through the ’80s and ’90s vaults became more challenging, advancing to a Tsukahara, then Yurchenkos and front handspring front salto/double saltos. Modern vaults are much more complex, such as Amanars, Chengs, double-twisting Yurchenkos, and more.
5. Belly Beats
Commonly referred to as just “beats” or “beating the bar,” belly beats are when a gymnast swings from a handstand position on the high bar and slams their hips into the low bar. This helps the gymnast gain momentum to complete the next skill, and when executed perfectly, this painful-looking skill does not hurt at all! To perform this skill correctly, the bars have to be in the perfect setting, ensuring each gymnast hits in the right spot. Once extremely popular, the trend faded when wider set bars became the norm. The widened bars allow gymnasts today to have more room for flight during bar-to-bar releases and other moves but lose the flowy, connected rhythm many bar routines had in the past. Twenty-three seconds into this video, Nadia Comaneci gives a perfect example of this skill.
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