Here is a sample of Elena, "The
Full Forty", at her very best, taken from the 1999
season of Russian Championships, which gives you some
idea of the new Elena, a unique gifted talent ...
Notice however, that in her recent
successful international competitions in the year 2000,
Elena performed a different program.
... unmatched in the current generation
of female gymnasts. the 1999 World Champion and
2000 Olympic Champion on vault ...
... At the 2000 Moscow Stars
of the World Competition Elena premiered a new vault
nobody has ever competed before, a Yurchenko with 900
degrees rotation, or 2 1/2 twists !!!
It's a Tenner !!!
Elena is the one of two girls in
the world presently capable of vaulting the double
twisting straight Tsukahara (#3.506, start value
Her team mate and friend Ekaterina
Lobaznyuk is the other one.
From her starting point, 3/4 down the runway, she
sprints towards the horse, with all the power her legs
can deliver, to build up the speed and momentum needed
for some of the best vaulting currently available. Elena
moves with about 30 km/h towards the apparatus in the
final phase of her 'launch', which is close to the maximum
speed a human being her size can actually achieve.
Just before she reaches the beat board she jumps forwards,
body a little piked, arms raised sideways and legs together
stretching forwards. The Tsukahara entry requires
Elena to punch the beat board with her feet, then she
sort of dives forwards, arms stretched at shoulders'
width. The punch of the beat board gives her the necessary
vertical momentum which carries her legs up into the
air, while all in the same movement she starts twisting
her upper body for some 180 degrees. Diving backwards
now, her hands reach for the frontal curve of the vaulting
horse. She puts down her left hand first, left arm bend
in the elbow, using this arm like a pivot, rotating
her body with it, and pushing off with it just a fraction
later. Her right arm remains more straight and is used
mainly to push off. Her legs are trailing behind her
upper body in this first phase of flight, and because
of the rotational inertia, they do come apart from the
The powerful touch of the horse is
also an extremely delicate moment, it is the crucial
moment of the vault: the transition from first to second
phase of flight. Now all of the forces of impact, rotation
and levitation are bundled and come together in just
Elena's shoulders, elbows and wrists. The impact is
huge, many times her body's weight are put one her wrists,
but Elena is well adapted and thoroughly trained, she
can handle it with ease.
With her left arm giving
a mighty push, Elena thrusts herself into the air, achieving
great height. She needs to get enough time in the air
to perform the two complete clockwise revolutions while
she does the one and a half stretched backwards salto.
Since Elena is small and compact, they happen almost
too fast for the human eye. Only in slow motion you
can see she has good form in flight, body straight as
an arrow, legs together, arms drawn close.
importantly now, she must stick the landing, the final
impression to make on the judges. She does so by slightly
piking her body in the hips during this final phase
of flight, when she can already see the landing area,
and by spreading her arms to stabilize herself on sticking
When she walks away from the horse, usually her left
arm, which has been doing most of the work, is held
a bit stiff in the elbow, an indication of the enormous
power it must have delivered. But Elena recovers quickly,
while already preparing her second vault in her mind,
she shakes the pain off.
This one adds up to 20 (well, almost) !!!
In this professional photograph from
Reuters, one can almost see the forces of impact of
Elena's hands on the horse's leather, pushing it forwards
into little moulds. Notice the concentration on Elena's
face, with her teeth clinched.
Her second vault is also ranked
with the most difficult, the double twisting straight
Yurchenko (#4.505, start value 9.900).
This vault, with the (considered easier) round
off - back flic entry, requires a completely different
Now using the full length of the runway,
again Elena sprints towards the horse with all the power
her legs can deliver. In front of the beat board
she puts her hands down, one after the other, her body
already turned for some 90 degrees, the other 90 degrees
are done when Elena continues her round off
move. When her feet touch the beat board, Elena faces
away from target, the vaulting horse, and throws her
arms into the air. She punches the beat board, and flies
backwards, blind, towards the horse, arms stretched
over her head. Only at the very last moment she makes
eye contact, when she puts her hands on the frontal
curve of the horse, at shoulders' width. There is absolutely
no room for error here, it could be fatal!
phase of flight has now been successfully accomplished,
her legs continue to move upwards, they are kept tightly
together. Elena now pushes off from the horse, converting
all of her forwards speed into upwards momentum. Again
her wrists take the full blow of impact, but because
she can keep her arms straight, less muscle power is
needed, the round off - back flic entry worked
to her advantage.
By a subtle play of muscles on
arms, shoulders and chest she initiates a rotation for
720 degrees, drawing her arms in to conserve the rotation,
performing a one and a half layout backwards salto.
All muscles tensed in flight, her stretched body is
cleaving the air like a javelin, almost too fast for
the human eye.
When she spots the mat beneath her,
in the final phase before landing, she elegantly spreads
her arms to stop the rotation, and she strikes the mat
like a dart hitting the board, absorbing the energy
by a little bending in the knees.
This is what you call "sticking the landing"!
The future of women's vaulting is being shaped by
Elena right now !
Elena is putting herself firmly
on the map for the coming gymnastics season, Russia
again is bringing progress in women's gymnastics.
Power, guts, technique and character
as shown by Elena, a gymnast so very much alive, is
Elena's brand new vault, the layout
Yurchenko with 900 degrees of rotation, or two and a
half revolutions, is very difficult to land.
Even a powerful gymnast like Elena has hardly enough
time in her second flight phase to complete the rotations
and be able to stretch out upon landing. The height
of the women's vaulting horse is perhaps a limiting
Elena lands blind, with her back towards the horse,
and has to rely on her motoric memory, air-sense
and general gymnastics 'instinct' to be able to stick
To the right she is actually vaulting this vault,
at that time still without a number. Elena landed it
well, and was smiling with satisfaction and pleasure
over her attempt.
She has submitted the triple twisting Yurchenko
for the 2001 World Championships even. An unfortunate
injury, sustained a few weeks before the competition,
prevented her from presenting this new vault.
Will these two vaults make her the
best vaulter the world has seen so far? Her ideal physique
and optimal power to weight ratio might suggest so,
she has learned the necessary technique and is courageous
from nature. The Gold Medals she won at the 1999 World
Championships and 2000 Olympic Games definitely have
Elena is still working to improve
her second 10.000 vault, the newly learned Yurchenko
2 1/2, will she will try to upgrade it into a triple
... in the asymmetric bars Elena
has a routine that seems to be one swirl of movement,
a display of power without any effort at all it seems.
There are no visible pauses and Elena keeps her legs
tightly together, if a little bent sometimes ...
Elena competing in the bars, 2000
She used to start with the Priakhina-mount,
a round off onto the beat board in front of the low
bar, followed by a back flic with full twist into a
somewhat quirky backwards circle over the bar. Quirky,
because we see her first twisting her body in flight
for three quarters of the turn, making eye contact with
the bar, before grabbing it with twisted arms, then
twisting for the remaining quarter turn, while swinging
over the bar in a position between piked and laid out,
with some inevitable loss of leg form.
Elena continues her movement with a piked swing outwards
under the rail, applies a kip to cast herself to handstand,
then quickly turning for 180 degrees. From handstand
Elena does the Chusovitina, an under swing
with foot support, popping off in straddled reverse
flight upwards, legs leading, to grab the high rail
and swinging outwards from it.
Nowadays, she runs towards the apparatus, punches
the beat board in front of it, and jumps over the lower
rail in a stretched Hecht, with hand support.
On the high rail she kips and immediately casts a
rear ways up rise to handstand. From vertical, she swings
down between the bars, to do a backwards circle into
a handstand with half turn, already starting on the
upswing, so no Healy proper, while changing
the way her hands grab the rail into el-grip,
thumbs facing outwards. From handstand she goes down
into a full circle round the bar in forwards attitude,
with her back leading. Before going over the top she
releases her left arm, turns her body counter clockwise
round the right arm for the full 360 degrees, to re-grasp
the bar in eagle grip, thumbs facing outwards
again. You need to have very flexible shoulders and
strong muscles, as the upper arm bone is completely
dislocated from its shoulder socket.
swings down between the rails to release her grip at
just the right moment on her upswing to do a straddled
forwards salto in the fourth quadrant, way above the
level of the rail, this flight element is called Jaeger
salto. Groping for the rail in horizontal body
position with her arms stretched out, Elena continues
with her routine.
groping for the high rail in her Hecht mount of the
Hanging from the rail in normal grip, Elena quickly
pulls her hips to the bar and casts herself to handstand,
starting a backwards circle inwards, her chest leading,
building up speed for a full twisting hop above the
rail, already started on the upswing, with Elena sort
of spiraling her fully stretched body snake-like. From
vertical she continues into a backwards swing down from
the outside, when passing the level of the lower rail
Elena thrusts her body upwards in a mighty whip, and
releases the rail for a straddled reverse flight rear
ways over the bar, the straddled reverse Hecht,
better known as the Tkachyov move. On re-grasp
she swings down and immediately releases again into
a stretched backwards salto, flying between the bars
to front support on the lower rail, facing in. This
transition element is called Pak salto. This
combination, with three releases in a row, only the
strongest girls can comfortably manage. Elena does it
bare handed and without any visible effort. She makes
it look so deceptively easy, which is the sign of true
mastery over the apparatus!
Jaeger release, in a professional Reuters photo.
On the lower rail Elena swings outwards under it
in piked position, kips and casts a handstand with half
twist, to swing back inwards, then kipping and casting
herself into a backwards up rise, before falling back
in a sole circle, jumping to hang from the high rail,
completing her, rather easy, but required, working of
the lower rail.
Now is it time for the dismount
series, first kipping and casting to set up two backwards
circles, leading into the tucked double twisting double
backwards salto fly-a-way to a secure stand (Super
Only one or two other gymnasts were ever able to
deliver the tucked double-double dismount repeatedly
and safely, one of them was the originator, Oksana
Fabrichnova, who now works the flying trapeze in
a German circus.
Elena's older (Aug 1999) asymmetric
routine is different from the one described above, has
0.5 connection bonus, and 0.6 D/E bonus.
Elena's routine on the balance beam
is equally spectacular, full of risk and brisk, because
she works the beam very swiftly, almost staccato, with
lots of sharp accents given by different parts of her
She seems like hewn and polished
from solid rock, such is the tension in her leg muscles.
Yet she works the hard surface of the beam almost silently,
an indication of her technique and economy with power
Elena competing on beam, 2000
Elena used to mount a la Priakhina,
from the side: round off onto beat board - back flic
with full twist - hip circle rear ways round the beam
to front balanced hip support, with an authoritive small
nod of the head to indicate to the judges her mount
has been accomplished.
Nowadays, Elena mounts without acrobatics, she puts
her hands on the beam and immediately swings her right
leg over it.
Sitting on the beam in straddled sit, Elena continues
by kneeling with her left knee on the beam an instant
later, striking a classic pose with her right leg stretched
Elena start her first pass standing upright, a backwards
acrobatic series of back flic - layout salto - back
flic. When she needs to put down her hands she puts
one hand over the other, using a minimal surface area.
Her feet don't fit side-by-side on the beam anymore,
so they are staggered, right foot first, the left one
a little later, the lunge position, or step-out
which actually helps her to maintain stability.
On the way back in her second pass she first strikes
some poses, then she does a nice pirouette, sort of
kicking herself around, and a huge Wolf jump - stretched
backwards full twisting salto to straddled sit combination.
On this second element, named Rulfova, Elena
used her hands to support her body just before landing,
so as not to strike her crotch uncomfortably on the
beam. She quickly rises to her feet to show some more
powerful poses, head upright, shoulders square, a monument
of control and craftsmanship.
The third pass has Elena jumping up in a jump of
no real value, but she uses it to set up a jump forwards
into a big switch leg leap or Sissone, with
the required 180 degrees of split, in combination with
a jump 1/4 turn down to the beam, straight into rear
ways circle round the beam (Yurchenko loop).
The fourth pass contains a full twisting back flic,
in which she cheated a little, as she first twisted
for 3/4 of the turn, put her hands down in staggered
position, before twisting for the remaining 1/4 turn
and ending upright on her feet again, immediately throwing
a Wolf jump to earn some combination bonus. Elena heads
back towards the end of the beam she just came from,
turning around to continue her pass with a tucked salto
At the far end of the beam now, Elena turns around
for the last time, and takes a few breaths in order
to acquire the composition required for the final and
dismount pass, which is of great difficulty (E value):
round off - tucked double backwards salto with a full
twist in the first (Mukhina), to a solid stand.
One thing will surely strike a careful observer,
although the routine is standard and not too difficult
as far as the gymnastics elements are concerned, her
acrobatic elements are of superb content and great difficulty,
especially in the combinations.
Elena used to be very tensed on the beam, her weakest
apparatus one might think, and the only one which needed
some work done, to raise the start value comfortably
to the full 10.000 points.
(Elena herself says
she has no problems at all on beam ...).
was noticeable however, by the many minute adjustments
in her positions, and nervous shuffling with her feet,
details only the most experienced judges will notice,
given Elena's tempo.
Her current beam routine has a different content,
and was much better executed, the many times OEG watched
it being performed live by Elena. Elena even medalled
in Russian Cup and European Championships with it.
Elena's older (Aug 1999) balance
beam routine has 0.6 connection bonus, and 0.4 D/E bonus,
The Priakhina mount, is actually rated "E"
value by the Women's Technical Committee.
... tumbling power no boy gymnasts
will be ashamed of. Elena seems to just some 80 pounds
of pure, fast acting, twitch fibre muscle in her floor
Here she can channel her boundless energy
in powerful tumbling runs and effortlessly stuck landings
Elena competing on floor in the 2000
to match Elena's character and abilities, she can show
off her dynamic skills in a most convincing manner.
Even now that she works to a more mature piece of Jazzy
music, the routine is still completely Zamo
and has to be seen for real to appreciate it!
Here Elena's former routine is still described. The
new Olympic routine will follow later.
The first pass goes like: round off - back flic -
double twisting double backwards salto in the tucked
position, *stuck solid* with the chalk dust flying!
This skill, extremely rare, named after Romania's Daniela
Silivas, has only been done by Dina Kochetkova
in Russian female artistic gymnastics before, though
it was premiered by Aleftina Priakhina, an USSR
gymnast from the 80's.
Elena's second run is mixed in tumbling direction:
short sprint (for real!) into running layout front full
- round off - back flic - triple twisting stretched
salto backwards *stuck completely round with room to
spare* - quick step out into lunge position.
The required gymnastic elements are next: huge switch
leg straddled side leap with quarter turn to parallel
landing, jumping up into a tucked jump with 3/2 turn
and an huge straddled planche dive (Shushunova),
leading into nice and spunky work on the mat, with Elena
crawling like a crab, spinning on her back, whipping
herself up and round. She gets to stand from her kneeling
position by means of a cartwheel, ending right in the
corner, striking a pose.
She continues with her third pass: a round off -
whip back - layout back 2/1 - punch front - pose combination.
(This pass used to end with Elena facing outwards after
a l.o.b. 2 1/2, with the chance of her overstepping
Elena now shows some spicy dance to
her funky jazz music, shaking her hips, jumping around,
falling into poses while moving briskly across the mat,
finally striking her 'two fingers raised' pose while
stepping in the corner and drawing her hands across
her face, peeking through the spread fingers, for a
Almost near the end of her routine now, she sets
off for her final pass along the diagonal: round off
- back flic - double back tucked full (Mukhina)
*stuck cold*, before twisting some, jumping up
with a full turn in horizontal, falling to the floor,
stretching her body, ending in a rear support position,
smiling, with a gloriously radiant face like she expresses
... how is that for a floor routine? ...
Although the routine is simple in its construction
and content, Elena is very capable of selling it, by
showing nice accents with hands, head, or hips when
the music calls for them, she is even able to smile
an alluring smile.
She is a natural born gymnast after all, and floor
exercise is one of her most favorite apparatus ...
Elena's older (Aug 1999) floor routine
has 0.6 connection bonus, and 0.4 D/E bonus.
A qualified judge gave the following (personal)
commentary after OEG let her examine the shorthand notation:
Here you have been
given a picture of one of the most exciting gymnasts
currently on the scene, certainly the present most powerful
These are some suggestions by a
qualified (international brevet) judge to adapt Elena's
routines to the requirements of the new Code of Points.
We will have to wait and see what
the experts form Russia come up with in Elena's case.