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Why the “wolf turn” is such a big deal

A deceptively difficult gymnastics turn.

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Every Summer Olympics, gymnasts amaze viewers by performing incredibly complex and dangerous skills. As these routines get more and more complicated, they become harder to top — and the latest way to add value and distinguish a routine is the wolf turn.

The wolf turn has actually been around for decades. But recently it’s become a favorite in balance beam and floor routines. A gymnast will get into a squat position with one leg stretched out. She’ll then stretch out her arms and wind them up. Once she finds her balance, she’ll start spinning. Finally, she’ll stop and return to her original stance.

Seems pretty simple, but the movement relies on a delicate balance of mass and inertia. One wobble and things fall apart. Of course, there’s a reason gymnasts perform this delicate balance: points. The turn is used strategically because its relatively high difficulty level means judges value it more than a regular turn.

To read more about how judges score gymnasts, check out this article from USA gymnastics: https://usagym.org/pages/events/pages/fig_scoring.html and this one from The Balance Beam Situation: https://balancebeamsituation.com/elite-skill-database/wolf-turn-double-balance-beam/

And make sure to check out Nicole Langevin’s podcast, What Makes You Think: https://www.audible.com/pd/Podcast/B08K56FCJV

To read more Simone Biles’s role in the 2020 Olympic Games, check out this explainer from Vox: https://www.vox.com/22596910/simone-biles-withdrawal-olympic-gymnastics-team-finals-results

And read all of Vox’s Tokyo Olympics coverage here: https://www.vox.com/22580164/tokyo-japan-olympics-2021-summer-covid

Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com.

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