You’ve probably heard a lot about Aly Raisman’s mind-blowing first tumbling pass ― and with good reason. The defending Olympic floor exercise champion at the Rio de Janeiro Games fits a series of highly difficult tumbling tricks onto the 40-by-40-foot mat, and then, for good measure, tacks on another highly difficult trick at the end, flirting dangerously with the possibility of stepping out of bounds and incurring a deduction of 0.10 or 0.30 points.
But that’s just the beginning. Raisman’s routine, which was awarded a 15.275 in the team qualification competition (the second highest floor score of the day) and a 15.366 in the team finals (again, the second highest floor score of the day), is loaded with difficult tumbling. Only Queen Simone Biles can best her on this event.
The first pass, the one that’s been going viral, is a round-off into a one-and-a-half twisting layout step out into another round-off into a back handspring into an Arabian double tuck into a front layout.
You’re probably thinking, “OK, I know what each of those words means on its own, but … what?”
Let’s break that down, using a video of Raisman’s routine at U.S. Nationals this year.
Here’s the round-off ...
... into the one-and-a-half twisting layout.
Raisman steps out of the layout to get into the next round-off and back handspring ...
Out of the back handspring, she launches into an Arabian ...
The Arabian is a backward entry with a half twist, followed by a front somersault (or, in this case, two of them), in the tucked position.
... which she then connects to a front somersault in a layout position.
The whole thing takes 6 seconds. And into the remaining 1 minute and 24 seconds, she fits three more jaw-dropping tumbling passes.
Next up is a round-off (1) into back handspring (2), into an Arabian double somersault (3), connected to a stag jump (4).
This time, the Arabian is in the piked position – her legs are straight and she’s bent at the hips at a sharp angle.
Gymnastics elements are all assigned a difficulty rating, with “A” being the easiest, and “I” being the hardest, but in international competition you’re unlikely to see something harder than an “H” ― for now. Aly’s piked double Arabian is an “F.” Appropriate, because it’s F-ing difficult. Connecting it to a stag jump is strategic because she picks up extra points for the connection, and has a chance to control some of the momentum from her somersault, making it easier for her to stick the landing cleanly ― which she does here.
Her third tumbling pass, which she starts only 12 seconds after she finishes the second one, is a round-off (1) into a back handspring (2) into a double layout (3).
That’s a backward entry, with no twists, unlike the Arabian. She does two back somersaults in a fully stretched-out layout position.
At this point, she still has a big leap combination left to complete, and it’s hard not to marvel at how freaking fit she has to be to nail this routine. Finally, she closes out with her fourth tumbling pass.
Her fourth pass is another round-off back handspring entry (1, 2), and another double back, but this time, it’s a pike instead of a layout (3).
And a stuck landing. It’s staggering.
Make no mistake, Raisman’s opening pass is difficult, but it’s worth looking beyond the viral vine, because this whole routine is spectacular. Raisman has already won one Olympic medal for her tumbling pyrotechnics. And if she performs it the way she did in the team competition this week, chances are she’s going to pick up yet another floor medal on Monday.