August 1, 2012

McKayla Maroney's Vault, The "Amanar" -- Difficulty: 10 Perfection: 10+

Perfection is seldom seen in this life. It's mostly near misses, hard tries, do-overs, quitting or a grudging "that's good enough." Nothing wrong with that. That is, as they say, just life and life only. Too much perfection is a mistake. But when perfection does come along, we all see it and we all applaud it. It reminds us that perfection is not just some abstract goal but something that can be achieved. Yesterday the Olympics delivered a moment of perfection to the world with McKayla Maroney's vault. Swift, quick, and soaring, it lifts the soul and the heart. It's called the "Amanar:"

As it happened. In the first three seconds above look for the glaring stare of supreme focus between the smile and the beginning. It's just there for a split-second, but it is the key.

Hard to follow? Try it in slow-mo.

And from another angle. "Look at the height!"

How difficult is the "Amanar?" Here's how it is done:

Maroney indicated to the judges that she was ready to vault. She paused for a moment, staring at the vaulting table, looking fierce. Then she slid back on her left foot, as if loading a spring, and launched down the run. At a full sprint she hurdled herself onto her hands and into a round-off. Her feet slammed into the springboard and her back arched toward the table, her hands finding the crest of the slope. She kept her arms straight and punched off the table — Maroney has one of the best blocks in the world — and suddenly she was a bottle rocket launched. Her body flew high, her torso extended, her legs straight and fused, and only when she reached the height of her flight did she start to spin, remaining totally tight as she twisted and flipped. After two and a half twists, she opened up, stopped her rotation, and prepared her body for the landing. That vault — a 2.5-twisting Yurchenko, also called an "Amanar" or, by the gymnasts, a "2.5" — has a blind landing, which means she couldn't see the floor coming. She took a large step forward, but it was a controlled step. -- The key to victory for the U.S. women's gymnastics team lies with its vault, the Amanar, a 2.5 Yurchenko - Grantland
How overwhelmingly perfect was this vault? Well, even though someone among the judges found a "reason" to shave a whisper off a perfect score, this judge's expression at the moment Maroney landed tells the truth:

Maroney didn't win gold for the team with the vault but it did give Team USA a 1.7-point lead in the first rotation. No other team could catch up to that. Long after the judges who robbed her of her perfect score are forgotten, Maroney and her team mates will be remembering those fleeting seconds of absolute perfection. And those memories will be solid gold.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at August 1, 2012 11:37 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Yup, watched that slice of perfection last night. Simply amazing.

I have, and suspect others do too, enough cynicism, acquired through multiple head scratching Olympics, to feel that if that vault had been duplicated by someone other than an American, say a Russian for example, that the score would’ve matched the perfection on display.

In other news, Bob Costas would like to know why she couldn’t have gone higher and if she realizes she let us all down.

Posted by: tim at August 1, 2012 12:37 PM

I saw that last night. The way she explodes off the table, my first thought was that she has flubber in her fingers.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at August 1, 2012 1:08 PM

I watched it, and after I yelled out in astonishment, my 4 1/2 and 6 year old children asked "Daddy, why did you yell like that?"
And I said "That was as good as you'll ever see someone do that. That was perfect. That was a 10."
And damn, she was robbed.

Posted by: Uncle Jefe at August 1, 2012 4:06 PM

I don't really know how on earth she could have done that any better. 3 and a half full rotations? Good God.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at August 1, 2012 4:10 PM

My jaw dropped when I saw that vault last night. I'm not an expert, but I was stunned at the near perfection of the form. How could it be done any better?

My biased guess? If she were a [cough cough] 16 year old from the PRC it would have been a perfect score.

Posted by: BobK at August 1, 2012 4:37 PM

It's why we humans have invented these "games." Higher, faster, farther empowers us to work hard, to dream, to achieve. They're games, but the concept of competition and striving is behind the economic success of every prosperous nation.

Congatulations to McKayla. And to the entire U.S. women's gymnastic team.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at August 1, 2012 7:32 PM

I believe I fell into the Popper quote "It is impossible to speak in such a way..." Perhaps I am running the risk of being misunderstood. My comment was meant to reflect my opinion of certain Olympic gymnastic teams and some of the judges, not my opinion of the athletes.

Posted by: BobK at August 1, 2012 7:32 PM

Holy flippin' Jesus, how did she get so high up? Just landing in form should be enough to say 'you won'.

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