A 41-year-old gymnast attempt 'the vault of death', a trick so hard not even Simone Biles will try it

Rio-olympics-funny-facesGetty Images/Tom PenningtonOksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan competes on the vault during the women’s gymnastics qualification round in Rio.

On Sunday, 41-year-old Uzbekistan gymnast Oksana Chusovitina appeared in her seventh (yes, seventh) Olympic games, competing against women less than half her age in the vault final. 

And in case that wasn’t impressive enough: She also attempted a trick known as “the vault of death.”

The dangerous vault is technically known as the Produnova, named after the Russian gymnast Yelena Produnova who first landed it. It starts with a front handspring off the vault table, followed by about two-and-a-half somersaults in the air. 

The vault carries such a high risk of injury most gymnasts won’t even think about trying it. When the New Yorker asked gold medalist Simone Biles whether she would ever attempt the vault, she replied, “I’m not trying to die.” But the risk could pay off big time, since gymnasts earn higher scores when they execute more difficult skills. 

Here’s Yelena Produnova herself, completing the vault and almost sticking the landing. The Washington Post reports that only four other gymnasts besides her have ever landed it successfully. 

 Chusovitina wasn’t quite as successful on Sunday, but she certainly vaulted with gusto: 

She also wasn’t the only gymnast to try the vault of death. 23-year-old Dipa Kamakar, of India, tried the Produnova and landed on her feet at first, but quickly fell on her backside. Still, her difficulty score was so high that she ended up in fourth place  —  just two tenths of a point away from the bronze medal, actually. 

Chusovitina didn’t fare quite so well. She ended the day with a score of 14.833, landing in seventh place out of eight gymnasts. But if there were medals for pure fearlessness, she’d be on top of the podium. 

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