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Jordyn Wieber 2012 Explains the Toughest Vault -- How to Win | The New York Times

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Published on Aug 10, 2012

London 2012 Olympic gold medalist, Jordyn Weiber, explains the mechanics of how to win the Amanar vault - the toughest vault.

In the run-up to nearly every Summer Games, no matter what year it is or where they are held, one female American gymnast is picked for a role she likely has always dreamed of: the summer's Olympic sweetheart.

She is a pint-sized pixie whose face will be featured in television commercials and in magazine print ads. She may even grace the front of a Coke can, or a cereal box or two.

And this summer, that gymnast is Jordyn Wieber, a petite but powerful high school student from DeWitt, Mich.

Years ago, it would not have been a stretch to say that Wieber, who will be 17 this summer, would be a gymnast to watch at the London Games. She made a name for herself early on.

She reached the elite level of gymnastics when she was only 10. A few years later, she won the junior world championship in the all-around competition. In 2009, she turned heads when, as a 13-year-old eighth grader, she won the all-around at the American Cup. To capture that title, she beat her fellow American Bridget Sloan, who later that year won the world all-around title.

Since then, Wieber has been gaining momentum with hopes of winning gold in London.

Last year, in her debut as a senior-level gymnast, she won the American Cup by beating 2010 world all-around champion Aliya Mustafina of Russia, setting up what is likely to be a heated rivalry at the London Games.

Wieber then went on to win the United States national title in the all-around in a rout, scoring 121.300 points, 6.15 points ahead of second-place McKayla Maroney. It was the biggest victory at the national championships since USA Gymnastics began using the open-ended scoring system in 2006.

At the world championships last fall, Wieber continued dominating the sport. She came from behind to beat Russia's Viktoria Komova by a whisper-thin margin of 0.033 points to become the sixth American woman to win the world title in the all-around. The others are Sloan (2009), Shawn Johnson (2007), Chellsie Memmel (2005), Shannon Miller (1993-94) and Kim Zmeskal (1991). She also helped the United States women win gold in the team event.

Wieber's parents, Rita and David, say it was not hard for them to guess that Jordyn's life might end up like this. Even when she was an infant, they said, they knew she had potential to be a great athlete. It took just one glance at her to figure that out.

Even when she was 10 months old, Jordyn's calves were not Pillsbury doughboy mushy. They were noticeably muscular. Her biceps soon became so defined that other parents started asking her parents if Jordyn lifted weights.

Jordyn soon found herself in gymnastics classes because, her parents said, she looked like a gymnast. She was 4.

Under coaches John and Kathryn Geddert, Wieber evolved from a tumbling tyke into one of the world's best gymnasts.

She now does some of the sport's most difficult moves, including the Amanar vault, in which a gymnast does two full flips and two and a half twists in the air before landing blindly. On the floor exercise, her first tumbling pass is a double twisting double — two flips and two twists — which is also a rarity.

Neither her skills nor her past victories, though, will guarantee her the gold medal in London. Already, the pressure is mounting and the spotlight is blinding. The last reigning world champion to win the Olympic gold medal in the all-around was Ukraine's Lilia Podkopayeva in 1996.

Wieber, however, is out to break that streak. -- JULIET MACUR

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