Simone Biles makes history to become first female gymnast to land Yurchenko double pike

The skill will now be known as the Biles II. Credit: AP

US gymnast Simone Biles has become the first woman to land the Yurchenko double pike vault at an international competition.

The 26-year-old Olympian's return to the world stage on Sunday was an historic show, as she landed the notoriously difficult skill previously only executed by male gymnasts.

It will now be named the Biles II in honour of the 19-time world champion, making it the fifth skill named after her.

Onlookers watched with baited breath as Biles stepped up to the vault to attempt the most difficult jump in the women's scoring code at the world gymnastics championships, in Antwerp, Belgium.

Understanding the safety risks involved with the jump, Biles voluntarily accepted a half-point deduction to allow her coach, Laurent Landi, to stand on the landing mat.

Though the coach did not touch her, he served as a spotter - which is banned - to make sure she did not suffer any dangerous consequences should she make a mistake.

But they needn't have worried as Biles landed with only a single backwards step after skillfully launching herself into the air and twisting in a blur of flips. Even with the deduction, she scored a 15.766. 

Why is the Yurchenko double pike so difficult?

Yurchenko are a group of vaults in which the gymnast performs a round-off onto the springboard, followed by a back handspring onto the horse or vaulting table.

The athlete then executes a salto - or somersault. The more difficult the variation, the higher the score will be.

They are named after Soviet gymnast Natalia Yurchenko who first performed the vault in 1982.

The Yurchenko double pike - now known as the Biles II - is yet more difficult because it involves a second flip. The second salto requires great power and if the gymnast does not successfully complete the full rotation, they could land on their head.

The Olympian now has five skills named after her. Credit: AP

Biles, who is a five-time all-around world champion and seven-time Olympic medalist, posted an all-around total of 58.865 to lead qualifying through two subdivisions Sunday.

It marks a significant comeback for the athlete as she returned to competition this summer following a two-year break after the Tokyo Olympics.

She registered the best scores on floor exercise, vault and balance beam and the second-best score behind teammate Shilese Jones on uneven bars through the first portion of qualifying.

The American team of Biles, Jones, Skye Blakely, Leanne Wong and Joscelyn Roberson combined for a total of 171.395, which figures to be the best by a considerable margin by the end of qualifying. Italy was second at 162.230 through two of the 10 subdivisions.

Biles, whose 25 world championship medals (19 of them gold) is already a record, will get a chance to add substantially to that total throughout the week.

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