What to watch for when the GOAT vaults back onto Olympic stage

There’s plenty of hype around Simone Biles‘s return to the Olympic arena.

At just 24 and standing at 142-centimetres tall, she’s competing in her third Olympic Games, having already won four gold medals. Add years of national and international championship domination to that record and it’s no wonder people are calling her the greatest of all time.

After success at both the 2021 US Classic and US Championships, and a good run in Olympic preliminary rounds, fans are expecting some memorable performances from the Texan in the finals.

Here’s what we’re looking out for. 

We’re set to witness *that* Yurchenko double pike

Earlier this year at the US Classic, Biles made history by becoming the first female athlete to perform a Yurchenko double pike vault in a competition. 

Here’s exactly what that looked like: 


Before that, it had only ever been done by a handful of men due to its difficulty and the threat of serious injury if anything goes wrong. In Biles’s own words, you can “break your ankle or snap your shin”, which “doesn’t look very pretty”. 

Team USA says Biles will go for the Yurchenko double pike at the Olympics, and she’s already been spotted practising the move in Tokyo: 



She didn’t perform this vault in her qualifying subdivision, but she’s sitting at the top of the ranks for both the vault apparatus and in the all-arounds going into finals, so she might pull the big moves out of the bag.

Her choice of skill to perform in Tokyo comes despite performing different (and safer) vaults at both the US Championships and Olympic trials — but there’s been some discussion around the move’s difficulty rating being too low. 

In an episode of her docuseries, Simone vs Herself, Biles said her team had been pushing for the difficulty score to be increased, but it doesn’t sound like competition authorities were budging.

“What can I do at this point? They’re not going to listen,” she said. 

“They’re a little bit older, they probably did, like, a layout or something in their Olympics, so they don’t quite get it.”

A little girl with a USA-print bow in her hair holds a sign that says 'because i can' with a picture of a goat on it in a crowd
Simone Biles has been lauded as an inspiration for young gymnasts.(

Getty Images


So if she won’t get the points for it, why not do something safer? This is Biles’ now-iconic exchange with a reporter who asked that exact question:

Reporter: You could do something else that maybe isn’t as risky that’s almost as much in value, and it still posts a really good score, so why even do it? 

SB: Because I can do it. 

There are other signature moves we could see

The Yurchenko double pike isn’t the only move Biles made history with.

In 2019, she became the first woman to land a clean triple-double in a floor routine,  as well as nailing the first ever double-double dismount on beam. 


She has four elements named after her already — one on vault, one on beam and two on floor (succinctly named the Biles and the Biles II).

Will she create entirely new signature moves in the finals in Tokyo? We’ll have to wait and see.

Her floor routine was choreographed by an Aussie

In a Q&A with BBC Sport, Biles confessed that if she had to pick one favourite event, it’d be floor. 

So to “spice up” her choreography ahead of the Olympics, she enlisted the help of US-Australian professional dancer Sasha Farber to take the dance element of her routine to the next level.

Biles was paired with Farber on season 24 of Dancing with the Stars US, where she placed fourth, and revealed in her docuseries that she’d been talking about working with Farber on a floor routine ever since.


“I’m really excited, because she’s really moving now,” Farber said.

But Goldie the Goat won’t make an appearance

In a tribute to her hard-earned but widely recognised status as the Greatest Of All Time, Biles’s leotards have sported a bedazzled goat icon throughout some of her recent competitions, including the 2021 US Gymnastics Championships (where she won big).

In an Instagram post last month, she confirmed to her more than 4 million followers that her mascot officially has a name that was chosen by fans.


But Goldie won’t be making the trip to Tokyo — well, maybe in spirit, but not on team leotards.

“Goldie was something that we did for just whenever I represent my home gym,” Biles told Team USA News.

“So it didn’t make an appearance at trials, and it won’t make an appearance at the Olympics.”

a bejewelled goat is seen on the leotard of gymnast simone biles. you can also see a tattoo of the olympic rings on her arm
Jordan? Phelps? Nup, Simone Biles is the GOAT now and she’s proud of it.(

Jamie Squire/Getty


It’s an emotional Olympics for the superstar

There’s already been plenty of COVID drama around the Olympics, so it’s easy to forget that athletes who have dedicated every day of their lives to training are going to feel all the emotion of competing, winning and losing without being able to hug their loved ones. 

“I honestly have never done a competition without my parents there, so I’m a little bit nervous,” Biles told Good Morning America.

“But I know they’ll be there in spirit and I know it’s because we have to protect the Japanese citizens as much as possible, as well as ourselves, going over there.” 


Sports Illustrated reports that Biles had previously planned to retire after Tokyo, and “burst into tears” in March 2020 when it was confirmed that the Olympics were being postponed due to COVID-19, telling training partner Jordan Chiles “I just don’t know if I can do this for another year”.

But in an interview with Glamour just last month, she said she’ll “see where we go”.

When is Simone Biles competing?

Artistic Gymnastics women’s team finals start on July 27.

If you’re tuning in, keep an eye out for the green and gold — Aussie Georgia Godwin might sneak into the all-around finals depending on final qualification standings.


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