What is the Produnova and why is it considered a dangerous vault?

Dipa Karmakar
Dipa Karmakar at the 2016 Rio Olympics

The Produnova vault is a part of artistic gymnastics, and it technically consists of a front handspring that erupts into a double somersault. In simple words, this vault sees an athlete sprint up and catapult high into the air, completing two somersaults before landing safely. 

This vault is considered to be the most difficult and dangerous manoeuvre in gymnastics by many professionals all over the globe. The Produnova is considered extremely risky and not many have attempted it; there are only five women in the world till date who have landed the vault successfully. It has a difficulty rating of 7.0, the highest of all. If an athlete does land this perfectly, there is almost a guaranteed chance of winning the event. 

Experts say that if it is not performed with perfect calculation, the athlete may land on her back or neck instead of the feet which may lead the player to a major injury or even death. But despite the high risk, gymnasts attempt the vault as it can get them higher rewards and a chance to win over their opponents. It can quickly boost the player’s score and is worth significantly more than the other vaults.

As quoted in The Wall Street Journal, US Olympic judge Cheryl Hamilton said that the Produnova is worth a lot more than other vaults, even if the landing is not perfect, thanks to the high difficulty level. There have been discussions to rewrite the scoring system next year in part to discourage people from attempting the dangerous vault. The report also stated that this vault is largely dismissed by the gymnasts from the USA as they consider this part of the event as a gamble, but they score typically well in the other events.

Who was Produnova?

The Produnova vault is named after the Russian gymnast Yelena Produnova, who is also known as Elena. Her name was given to the vault after she successfully completed the attempt in 1999. After successfully landing on her feet she said that she was blessed by nature and that God had made her powerful and quick.

Elena had an incredible career with multiple awards; although she could not win gold in the Olympics, she did secure a silver and bronze. Her international career lasted from 1995 to 2000 and she showed strong performances in many other major events ranging from University games, European Championships to World Championships and secured a decent number of medals including gold, silver and bronze.

Also read: Rio 2016: Who said what, world reacts to Dipa Karmakar becoming the first Indian gymnast to qualify for an Olympic final 

Before Elena, North Korea’s youngest participant Choe Jong Sil performed the vault in the 1980 Olympics but she landed on her back. The Russian gymnast Yekaterina Tsvetkova was the second person to perform the Produnova vault and landed on her back as she performed it in the 2012 Voronin Cup.

The list of participants who have successfully performed the vault is not very long but it is bigger than the list of unsuccessful landings.  The list of successful Produnova vault performers carries only five names which includes Yelena Produnova herself being the first, Yamilet Peña from the Dominican Republic, Oksana Chusovitina from Uzbekistan, the Egyptian gymnast Fadwa Mahmoud and Dipa Karmakar from India.

Controversies around the Produnova vault began when the amazing Egyptian gymnast Mahmoud almost killed herself by nearly landing on her neck in her first competitive attempt. She represented the Egyptian National Team at the 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.

Another Produnova on the way?

Oksana Chusovitina is the oldest woman to compete in the Rio Olympic 2016 gymnastics event. The 41-year old athlete, who once competed for the USSR, is appearing in her record seventh Olympic Games. She told the reporters that she feels more confident now than when she was younger.

Chusovitina, who is actually older than the person after whom the vault is named, performed well to qualify for the Rio finals. As per reports, the USSR participant said that the main thing was to qualify and that she would perform the Produnova vault in the finals.

Dipa Karmakar
Dipa could be looking to perform another Produnova in the finals 

India’s Dipa Karmakar, who has flat feet, is the lone Indian gymnast in the 31st Olympic Games and has now advanced to the individual vault final in the artistic gymnastics. Karmakar became the first Indian gymnast to enter the final on her debut at the quadrennial multi-discipline games when she finished eighth in the qualifying round. She is also the first Indian woman gymnast to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.

The 22-year-old gymnast from Tripura began her training at the age of six in a ramshackle gymnasium using makeshift equipment fashioned out of discarded scooter parts and crash mats. Dipa was introduced to the move by her two coaches just three months before the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Also read: Rio Olympics 2016: Dipa Karmakar's commitment and belief inspires Rahul Dravid  

As quoted by the Hindustan Times, Dipa Karmakar’s coach, Bishweshwar Nandi said, “We have to take this risk because we are not a strong nation when it comes to gymnastics. Dipa attempts Produnova because it can get her bigger points and a chance to enter the finals of tournaments. It is a risk that we have to take. We will not change her vault. Her first mark was 15.06 but it has to come to a standing position.”

He later added, “Our sport in general is very dangerous. I have seen people falling down from horizontal bars and Roman Rings and die. So Produnova is as safe or dangerous like any other routine of our game.

The young Indian gymnast looked confident and said that she had pulled it off 1,000 times in the past three months alone. She even mentioned that the Rio vault is the easiest one for her. In an earlier report, as quoted by DNA, Dipa said “There can be death if you land on the neck, there’s death if you go down headlong. It is risky, I know. But to win something, I always knew I had to take a risk.”

Edited by Staff Editor
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