Yurchenko double pike: Suburban gymnast Paul Juda one of few men who can land the daunting vault move

Juda considers the move the most difficult skill he can do as a gymnast

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Last year, Simone Biles made history as she became the first woman to perform the Yurchenko double pike at a world competition -- a skill few men even attempt, let alone land.

But among the gymnasts who can achieve such a massive feat is suburban Olympian Paul Juda, who just secured his spot along with Biles on Team USA's gymnastics roster for the 2024 Paris Games.

Juda considers the move the most difficult skill he can do as a gymnast.

"What's really difficult about it is that there aren't too many men's athletes that do it," Juda told NBC Chicago Friday. "But then when you put it into perspective, there's never been a female that's done it until Simone, right? And so putting Simone already into her own kind of G.O.A.T category is one thing. But yeah, the vaults extremely difficult."

Yurchenko vaults are a category of vaults that involve leading into a move with a round-off. They're named after gymnast Natalia Vladimirovna Yurchenko. 

In a Yurchenko double pike, a gymnast will round-off onto the springboard, then do a back handspring onto the vault, before launching into two full rotations in a pike position before landing. 

"I've talked to Simone before. We've both said that it's a bit of a scary vault," Juda said. "I actually had to discontinue training the vault after the World Championships to lessen harm on my elbows. It's very, very grueling ... it takes a lot of impact."

Because Biles became the first woman to complete the move in a major international competition, it has since been named after her: the Biles II.

"The only way I could describe this vault compared to what we typically see is like seeing someone put on a mask and being like, ‘I’m a vigilante,’ versus just Ironman," NBC Sports analyst and former Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez, a two-time medalist, previously told TODAY. "I cannot express this enough, this is really hard. It’s extremely difficult."

It's unclear if either Biles or Juda will attempt the move in Paris, but all eyes will be on anyone who does.

Juda didn't attempt the skill during his vault at the U.S. Olympic team trials.

"For this trials, I knew that I could score very well with a simpler vault simply because of my clean and consistent nature on vault," Juda said. "But yeah, it's a tough fall. And I can't say it enough, it really is a bit scary too."

Juda was named to Team USA last weekend, part of a group of five men who will represent the U.S. in Paris.

The suburban Chicago native, who secured his ticket after falling just shy of the 2020 Tokyo Games, broke down in tears as he learned he would officially become an Olympic athlete.

"I was the first name called, and the second I heard 'Pa—,' I started crying right away," Juda said.

Juda will join his now-Olympic teammates Fred Richard, Brody Malone, Asher Hong and Stephen Nedoroscik.

Nine months after earning a bronze at the 2023 world championships — the men's program's first at a major international competition in nearly a decade — Juda and the rest of the Americans believe they're capable of even more this summer.

"The more I look forward to the Olympics, the more I realize it's awesome to become an Olympian, but there's a whole other upper echelon of athletes that leave being a medalist," he told NBC Chicago prior to the trials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report
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