Natalia is best known for creating the Yurchenko vault. The Yurchenko is most commonly identified as a family of vaults in the Code of Points. In a Yurchenko, the gymnast starts with a round-off onto the board, then does a back handspring or back handspring with a full twist onto the table, and a flip off of the table, usually with a twist.
Yurchenko vaults are by far the most popular type of vault for women. In fact, every Olympic gold medalist on the vault since 1988 has used a Yurchenko vault.
The Yurchenko Vault – in her own words:
“This vault is in the code of points under my own name. Indeed, I was the first gymnast to do this vault during an official competition. It was in Moscow during the Competition in 1982. I am very proud and very happy that there are many gymnasts today who perform my vault.
Few people know that the first gymnast who performed this vault was a male gymnast! It was invented by Russian gymnast Victor Levinkov during a national competition in Former USSR. But this vault was not well accepted in the male Russian gymnastics. So my trainer has decided that I should do it and I began to learn it. First I thought that my coach has gone crazy and wanted me to break my neck. I did not even succeed in imagining how I could arrive on the board back to the horse and spring without seeing where I should put my hands.
But always with clenched teeth, with eyes closed with fear, I began to learn it. After having repeated the motion a thousand times, it got easy and very dynamic with a second flight phase “high and far”.
At the beginning, I often fell. My legs were baldy placed on the board, my hands missed the vaulting horse. Concerning my vault, the study of the technique is very important because the little failings lead directly to the fall which can be very dangerous, especially when you fall on the head.
I performed my vault for the first time during the “Moscow News” Competition in 1982 and it allowed me to get best score. This mark made me feel excited I thought that my coach was very happy and proud for both of us.
At the end of the year 1982, during the World Cup in Zagreb, the Head of USSR Gymnastics Federation wrote my vault on the special list of the new elements. After their meeting, the FIG brought in a verdict at the end of that competition: the vault was accepted and entered the world classification of the elements and its name would be the Yurchenko vault.
This vault gave birth to a new vault group called: Round-off with or without 1/2 ou 1/1 turn (180º – 360º) in entry phase (Yurchenko entry) – Salto forward or backward with or without long axis turn in 2nd flight phase).
It was an important moment for my coach and I because this vault was really different from the other vault groups which was done in 1982. There were even who said that this vault would never be accepted. I was very happy to have succeeded, thanks to my coach. Later the vault became very popular that almost every gymnast performs it now, because it has a good value for your score and it looks neater for the audience.”
Natalia Yurchenko (Vault 1) – 1982 World Cup Event Finals
Natalia Yurchenko (Vault) – 1985 Montreal
Natalia Yurchenko (Vault 2) – 1983 Worlds All-Around