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13 October 2020 | in FISU Athletes, Artistic Gymnastics

The Produnova vault: a leap for Artistic Gymnastics at the 1999 Summer Universiade

Photo courtesy of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG)

LAUSANNE—The Produnova vault: a combination of a front handspring entry, followed by a double front somersault off the table for the total of three front flips in less than three seconds. No easy task for even the most experienced gymnasts, it was a breeze for the Russian Federation’s Elena Produnova 20 years ago at the Palma de Mallorca 1999 Summer Universiade.

 

At the Moscow 1980 Summer Olympic Games, Joege Roche of Cuba was the brainchild behind a routine called the ‘Roche’—a routine for men that required a strong block off the table to generate the power and rotation. There was one woman in particular who possessed the necessary skill and drive to be the first woman to pull this off: Elena Produnova.

 

In her early years, Produnova’s coaches encouraged her to play with double front variations and eventually found herself in Moscow looking to take the vault head-on. Practising her landing in a foam pit, Produnova’s coach Leonid Arkayev bet her that she could not stick the landing on a hard surface. Little did Arkayev know that she would prove him wrong, where she then embraced the vault as part of her life-changing routine, changing the construct of women’s vault apparatus competitions for generations to come. She excelled in the routine, taking it to the World Championships later in 1999 after the Summer Universiade, where she executed it so perfectly at both events that the name ‘Produnova vault’ was officially coined.

 

“The preparation was long: seven or eight years. We didn’t hurry things,” said Produnova. “Of course, there was some fear—fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Overcoming the fear is always a step forward and I managed to deal with this. It’s my character.”

 

The next year would host the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games, in which Produnova could not perform her newly found routine due to an injury and retired after this edition of the Olympic Games. The next time the sport of gymnastics would see this women’s vault apparatus routine again would be ten years later, after which the Women’s Technical Committee had cut Produnova’s difficulty rating. Rightfully so, as the routine includes dangerous elements and difficulty, and has resulted in discouraging the practice of this particular routine.

 

Even though this was the case, Produnova takes her performance at the Palma de Mallorca 1999 Summer Universiade in stride and hopes that one day it can be repeated. “I anticipate with joy for someone to repeat my vault and especially with the execution I did,” she said. “I do understand that to do such a vault at a world competition, a lot of work must be done by a gymnast together with her coach and I believe they will succeed.”

 

original Article courtesy of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG):