If you have not already read Fans Guide to the Code of Points - please do so as it will make this all much clearer.
Vault is the event that has the most in common between Mens and Womens Gymnastics. For the men, the center of the "horse" is 135 cm (~4' 5") off the ground, 1 m wide, and has a runway leading to the horse that is 25 m long.
In front of the horse (actually on the runway) is a spring board. The gymnast sprints down the runway, bounds off the board, hits the horse with his hands, completes a number of flips/twists, and does his best to "stick" the landing. Some gymnasts will choose to do a round-off leading up to the spring board to get onto the horse backwards, while others will run straight ahead and initiate their vault that way.
As seen in the diagram above, there is also a "Landing Area." Landing/stepping one foot over the line is a 0.1 deduction, both feet is 0.3, and actually landing with both feet over the line is 0.5.
Rather than adding up 10 skills to reach a start value for a routine as on the other events, every vault that a gymnast can perform is listed in the Code with an assigned Start Value.
For a fan, what's most important to know is that Vault is fast, explosive, fun, and very high scoring. A great vault will score around a 16.2
There are not 5 Element Groups in Vault, but instead are different categories of vaults.
These categories are important because in the Event Finals of major competitions, gymnasts must complete 2 vaults, and they must come from different categories. The categories are:
- Direct vaults (very rare)
- Vaults with a full turn in pre-flight (very rare)
- Front handspring entry vaults (common)
- Vaults with a 1/4 turn in pre-flight - called Tsukahara or Kasamatsu vaults (very common)
- Round-off entry vaults - called Yurchenko (also very common)
Here is Leszek Blanik in the finals of the 2007 World Championships. His two vaults come from Group 3 and Group 4. He won - watching, it's clear why:
Great Vaults of a 17.0 A-panel Start Value:
- A great vault from area 3 that has a 17.0 start value is a handspring double front with a half twist done in the second flip. It is names the Dragulescu, after the athlete to first compete it, Marian Dragulescu . It is the first vault he will perform.
- Another great 17.0 vault is in category 5. The athlete does a roundoff onto the spring board, then does a half turn right before his hands touch the horse and when he blocks and comes of the horse, he will do one flip with 2 1/2 twists, to land facing the vault. It is named for Li Xiaopeng. It can also be done from a category 3 approach, where the athlete starts facing forward, hits the vault without turning and then does 2 1/2 twists. The first of these is the second vault competed by Dragulescu.
Common Vaults under the 2004-2008 Code of Points:
- Tsukahara with 2 1/2 twists or a Kazamatsu with 1 1/2 twists. These are both 16.6 start value vaults and to the untrained eye they look identical. The difference is the direction the athlete twists in relation to the way the athlete does a roundoff on the vaulting table. Diego Hypolito is seen doing it here.
- Yurchenko 2 1/2. This is also a 16.6 vault that is very common. It starts with a roundoff onto the spring board that leads to a backhandspring onto the vaulting table. The flipping and twisting is idential to the video above, once the athlete leaves the vaulting table.