Scoring A Front Handspring Vault



I don’t understand, why did she score so low on her vault?  It looked good to me!

As a parent or gymnastics fan, it can be difficult to understand how a front handspring vault is evaluated.  But for a judge, it is easy to come up with a score based on the errors performed by the gymnast.

I will highlight some of the larger deductions including ones that help a judge separate the weaker vaults from the strong vaults.

The front handspring vault is evaluated in 3 different phases;

Pre-flight –

Support –

Post flight –

In all 3 phases there are some general deductions that can be taken.

There are body position deductions that can be taken when athletes deviate from a straight body line.  An arched body can receive a deduction of up to 0.30 and a piked body can receive a deduction of up to 0.50.

Bent legs will receive a deduction of up to 0.30, a leg separation will receive a deduction of up to 0.20, and flexed feet can receive a deduction of up to 0.10 during each phase of the vault.

Then there are deductions that are specific to each phase of the vault.

Most of the major pre-flight deductions pertain to the previously mentioned body position deductions.

During the support phase there are a few deductions that help a judge distinguish between a weaker vault from a high quality vault.

If an athlete does not immediately block off (repulsion) the table after hand contact, a judge can take a deduction of up to 0.50.  In addition, the angle that the athlete blocks off at can also possibly receive a deduction of up to 1.00.  Athletes are expected to immediate block off the vault and should be as close to vertical as possible when doing so.

These two support phase deductions are directly related.  The longer it takes an athlete to block off the table will result in a lower angle of repulsion.

Another major deduction that can be taken during this phase includes an up to 0.50 for bent arms while in the support phase of the vault, prior to the repulsion.

During the post flight phase of the vault, a judge can use the following deductions to help evaluate the vault.

Maroney on Vault at the 2012 Olympics.

The height of the vault after repulsion can receive a deduction of up to 0.50 and the distance from where an athlete lands compared to where she placed her hands on the vault table prior to repulsion can receive an up to 0.30 deduction.

Now for both of these two deductions, the physical height of the athlete is taken into consideration when a judge applies these deductions.  A taller athlete is expected to travel further and higher than a shorter athlete.

Upon landing, if an athlete lands in a squat position, depending on the angle of the knee bend, can receive a deduction of up to 0.30.

Small hops and/or adjustments of the feet can receive an up 0.10 deduction and a each step will receive a 0.10 deduction up to a total of 0.40.  Also upper body adjustments and/or extra arm swings can be worth up to 0.20 and up to 0.10 in deductions each.

Also, if a gymnast does not land directly in line with the vault table she can receive a deduction of up to 0.30 depending how far off she is from being in line with the table.

Finally, a judge can take up to 0.30 in deductions based on how dynamically the vault was performed based on an athlete’s physical body height.

Now that you know some of the deductions that can be taken during the performance of a front handspring vault, what does a weaker vault look like when compared to a higher quality vault.

Let’s look at three very different vaults; a weaker vault, an average vault, and a strong front handspring vault.

Remember to look at body position, how long they remained in the support phase, the angle they blocked off at, the height & distance during the post flight, and at the landing.

A weak vault:

*Not without trying, it was difficult to find a video of a weak vault.  So view this video of athletes training a front handspring vault but just remove the coach spotting the gymnast and this would be a weaker vault seen in competition.


An average vault:

*This athlete performs two vaults but the best view is the second vault which happens at :50 seconds into the video.


A strong vault:


The front handspring vault at Levels 4 – 10 may have all the same deductions but there is a large difference when it comes to the start value of the vault, depending on the level of the athlete performing it.

For Levels 4 – 7, the start value of the front handspring vault is out of a 10.0.  The start value at Level 8 is a 9.0, at Level 9 it is an 8.6, and at Level 10 the start value for a front handspring vault is an 8.2.

At some of Florida’s larger competitions, a judge can evaluate around 1400 front handspring vaults in a weekend.  As a result, they apply all the deductions available to them and use “the perfect vault” as the model when taking these deductions in order to separate the weaker vaults from the stronger vaults.

I hope that this now helps gymnastics fans better understand how a front handspring vault is evaluated at Levels 4 – 10 and what a weak, average, and strong vault looks like.

Source: USA Gymnastics Women’s Compulsory Book, USA Gymnastics Women’s Code of Points,


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8 thoughts on “Scoring A Front Handspring Vault

  1. Jewell says:

    I am a gymnast and my coach said to look at this I think it will also help gymnastics like to know what and how points are deducted.

  2. BCM says:

    Extremely helpful post, thank you. As the parent of a young gymnast, it’s hard to know what to look for, especially when they are just learning themselves.

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