Artistic gymnastics remains one of the handful of sports that have been a part of every Summer Olympics since its inception in 1896. Only men were allowed to compete initially, with the doors opening for women from the 1928 Amsterdam Games.
Many era-defining moves that changed the complexion of gymnastics have debuted at the Olympics in the past. And who can forget Nadia Comaneci's seven perfect 10s at the 1976 Montreal Olympics?
Tokyo Olympic audiences will undoubtedly be treated to many dazzling gravity-defying performances by gymnasts in search of perfection. In a sport in which age catches up faster with its exponents than in other athletic endeavors, the stage could prove to be the final hurrah for some and coming-of-age of others.
The search for medals will bring out the best in athletes who will look to push the boundaries of their sport with innovative and powerful routines. But a few signature moves have stood the test of time. Here are five of the toughest gymnastics moves that could be performed at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
#5 Simone Biles - Yurchenko double pike
At the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles will be competing with herself. Five years earlier in Rio, she bagged four gold medals and one bronze in artistic gymnastics. This time she will be looking to complete the sweep.
The vault remains the American's strength and she looks set to perform a move no other woman has displayed in the competition so far. Biles debuted the Yurchenko double pike at the 2021 US Classic and revealed in a docu-series that she will look to repeat the feat in Tokyo.
Also Read: What is the Yurchenko double pike?
The Yurchenko double pike consists of the gymnast performing a round-off back handspring in the pre-flight phase and following it up with two pikes in the flight phase. A pike is a type of rotation where the hip angle is less than ninety degrees while the knees are kept straight and legs are stuck together. The move currently enjoys a diffculty score (D-score) of 6.6.
#4 Nina Derwael - Toe-on laid-out Tkatchev with a ½ twist
Nina Derwael debuted the toe-on laid-out Tkatchev with a 1/2 twist at the 2021 Osijek Challenge Cup. It is the hardest skill on uneven bars, according to the Code of Points. The FIG named the move after her and it will be known simply as Derwael in the Olympics.
The move performed by the Belgian is an upgrade to the Nabieva with an extra half twist. The Nabieva involves a piked sole circle performed backward and is followed by a counter stretch before a reverse hecht in layout position from the high bar to the low bar. The extra half twist is performed before changing the bars.
Derwael won gold at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and with a new eponymous move in her arsenal, she will be eager to return with a medal of the same hue at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
#3 Max Whitlock - Triple Russian and Busnari
British gymnast Max Whitlock's pommel horse routine at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships enjoyed a D-score of 7.0 that helped him win the gold medal. His execution score (E-score) was better than only three gymnasts'.
The Triple Russian and the Busnari are two of the toughest moves of Whitlock's pommel horse routines. The former involves the gymnast performing three circles in the front support with his hips facing downwards. The difficulty arises from the fact that it has to be performed at only one handle.
Busnari involves the gymnast performing a handstand in the area between the handles and then coming back to the flare movements at one edge.
#2 Joe Fraser - Tanaka
Performed first by Japanese gymnast Yusuke Tanaka, the move is a belle with 1/2 twist and is performed on parallel bars. Joe Fraser's parallel bars routine had the highest D-score in the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and helped the Englishman win the gold medal despite off-balancing himself in the dismount.
A belle involves the gymnast performing a forward giant swing followed by a backward double salto before hanging himself with the support of arms. At the Tanaka, the gymnast performs an additional half twist.
#1 Simone Biles - Backward triple-twisting (3/1) double tucked salto
While none of the gymnasts' floor exercise routines at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships crossed the D-score of 6.0, Simone Biles' routine had a whopping score of 6.700. This was due to the backward triple-twisting double tucked salto, which enjoys a difficulty rating of J.
Here, the gymnast performs two backflips and follows them up with three twists in mid-air. What makes the move tough is that the gymnast needs to perform more twists than backflips. The FIG (International Gymnastics Federation) renamed it Biles II and it will be known as the same at the Tokyo Olympics.