Welcome to our Gymnastics Community
Wanting to join the rest of our members? Feel free to sign up today.
Sign up

Simone's triple-double; are we sure she's even human?

Geoffrey Taucer

Former Admin
Verified Coach
Coach
Proud Relative
Proud Parent
Gymnast
Former Gymnast
Judge
Club Owner
Fan
Jan 21, 2007
3,887
Baltimore, MD
Country
USA
So I spent some time going through her ROBHS triple-double frame by frame (specifically, this video:
) and writing out my thoughts. Here they are:

Her arms flair out at the beginning of her roundoff. I've gone back and forth on what I think of this; my current opinion (subject to change) is that this is a top-level optimization applicable only to very high-level tumblers, and not something that should be replicated with lower-level athletes. Traditionally, roundoffs are taught with the arms remaining narrow in the entry; however her arm flare is timed so that even while swinging wider, they stay within the plane of rotation of the roundoff, and this is fairly common among top-level tumblers.

There is a pronounced bend in the knees as she lands the roundoff, and clearly no attempt at an instantaneous punch. I've heard some debate in coaching circles over the extent to which the knees should bend and absorb at the end of the roundoff, or if it should be more of an immediate punch with almost-straight legs. This debate should end right here; optimal technique is for the knees to bend, allowing a delay for the center of mass to move further behind the feet for greater acceleration into the BHS, exactly as Simone does.
Her head and arms come up fairly late at the end of the roundoff; she stays curled with arms low for as long as reasonably possible. This keeps the CoM low during the transition, and again allows the CoM to get behind the feet as far as possible as fast as possible.

When her arms do snap over top, they are moving so fast that the camera cannot see them. Pause it at any point while her feet are on the ground and she has initiated the backwards snap into the handspring, and you'll see that her arms are invisible to the camera. Insane acceleration.

Her takeoff angle for the backhandspring is slightly higher than I would generally expect. I think this is a top-level optimization, applicable only to the highest level of athletes. She makes the first half of her backhandspring slightly high, in order to allow greater turnover before the hands contact the floor, and resulting in a lower second half and a low landing angle at the end of the BHS. This would absolutely not be optimal for an athlete doing multiple consecutive backhandsprings or an athlete with less ankle strength, but for an athlete like Simone doing a single backhandpsring into such an enormous skill at the end, this is the optimal approach. Again, it's a high-level optimization not applicable to lower-level athletes; I think ideally I'd introduce this when an athlete is starting double-saltos.

When her hands contact the ground halfway through the backhandspring, at no point are her arms actually aligned vertically. There appears to be a slight arm bend, and the angle between the arms and floor looks to be roughly 30 degrees from vertical. The snap over is extremely delayed; when she actually hits a straight body position, her entire body is at this same roughly 30 degree angle. Once again, she's moving so fast that her ankles and feet are invisible to the camera.

There are only one or two frames of air time in the second flight phase of the backhandspring. For somebody moving this fast, that means her CoM must be incredibly low; to me it looks like her CoM is around thigh-height.
When her feet contact the floor, she's at an extremely low angle, I'd estimate about 40 degrees above horizontal. That angle is insane; normal human ankles cannot handle the amount of force she must be hitting with at that angle and that speed.
Hitting at this low angle causes almost all of her considerable horizontal momentum to be deflected upward for the triple double. Hitting at such a low angle should, in theory, slow down her salto, and she does appear to be rotating slower than she was in the BHS. This makes sense here, since the double salto is not really the hard part of this skill; she needs time to complete three twists during the double salto. I haven't checked, but I suspect she hits at a higher angle when performing a double layout and any variants thereof.

The triple double is smooth and has very little change in body position throughout. Very squared takeoff, with the twist initiating after the height and rotation for the salto have been established. Double full in the first salto, single in the second; having the first two twists completed so early makes it possible for her to watch the landing for pretty much the entire second salto. She is clearly watching the floor for at least the last 2/3 of a salto, and you can see her head come to almost a dead stop at the end before her feet contact the floor.

To put it in gaming terms, this is TAS-level perfection. Utterly unreal.
 

TravelingCoach

Verified Coach
Verified Coach
Jun 20, 2017
45
Country
USA
That’s probably the best breakdown possible. I like the “high level optimization” idea. I’ve never really thought about it that exact way, but from training and coaching I’ve noticed that as the skill and experience of a gymnast raises the technique sort of modifies. I’ve never done or taught that skill (full in was the highest), but I have felt myself and seen my athletes modify technique almost instinctually to reach certain results. I really feel that a strong base and proper technique should be taught but, as the skill level raises, the technique should be monitored but not forced into any specific mold if it is producing the desired result and there is no risk of injury. I would be willing to bet that she wasn’t “taught” to do it that way and I think that is something that sets her apart. There is a level of awareness and ability that she seems to have that makes her seem almost super human.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

Former Admin
Verified Coach
Coach
Proud Relative
Proud Parent
Gymnast
Former Gymnast
Judge
Club Owner
Fan
Jan 21, 2007
3,887
Baltimore, MD
Country
USA
That’s probably the best breakdown possible. I like the “high level optimization” idea. I’ve never really thought about it that exact way, but from training and coaching I’ve noticed that as the skill and experience of a gymnast raises the technique sort of modifies. I’ve never done or taught that skill (full in was the highest), but I have felt myself and seen my athletes modify technique almost instinctually to reach certain results. I really feel that a strong base and proper technique should be taught but, as the skill level raises, the technique should be monitored but not forced into any specific mold if it is producing the desired result and there is no risk of injury. I would be willing to bet that she wasn’t “taught” to do it that way and I think that is something that sets her apart. There is a level of awareness and ability that she seems to have that makes her seem almost super human.
Right, there are things that I suspect she does intuitively, rather than being taught, that give her that extra edge.
 

ginnymac

Parent/Coach
Coach
Proud Parent
Former Gymnast
Jun 26, 2008
385
She is so efficient. Will have time for another twist in there!