Olympic Gymnastics 2012: Breaking Down Top Contenders in the Women's Vault

Ben ChodosCorrespondent IIAugust 3, 2012

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 01:  McKayla Maroney during practice before the start of day 4 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on July 1, 2012 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Now that the excitement from the women’s individual all-around competition has died down, the vault will be the next women’s gymnastics event to give athletes a chance to walk away from the London 2012 Olympics with medals.

This is one of the most entertaining events in gymnastics, as athletes launch themselves off a springboard, soar into the air and perform impossible twists and turns before being expected to land perfectly on two feet.

The world’s best gymnasts will perform these daring feats on Monday, Aug. 5, starting at 9:50 a.m. ET. All results and schedules can be found at NBCOlympics.com

Here are the three athletes who will contend for a medal in the vault.

McKayla Maroney, United States

In this event, there is McKayla Maroney, and then everyone else.

The 16-year-old California native won the gold medal at the 2011 World Championships and finished first in the qualifying round. She suffered a broken toe prior to the Games, causing some worries, but it has not slowed her down at all thus far.

She is capable of sensationally difficult vaults and is remarkably consistent in the event.

Maroney is simply too talented to be beaten if she does not falter. Look for her to run away with the gold medal in this event.

Oksana Chusovitina, Germany 

Oksana Chusovitina is incredibly still in contention for an Olympic medal at the age of 37.

She first competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games, and has had a whirlwind career, with Germany being the third country she has represented. Chusovitina has competed at a high level for more than two decades. 

She won the silver medal in the vault at both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2011 World Championships. In the event’s qualification round, she recorded the fourth-highest score.

Nerves will not come into play during Chusovitina’s performance, and her experience will almost certainly earn her another medal.

Sandra Izbasa, Romania

Sandra Izbasa is talented in the floor exercise and took the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, but she has also been vaulting extremely well in recent years.

The 22-year-old took gold medals in the event at the 2010 and 2011 European Championships. Only Maroney posted a higher score than her in the qualifying round.

Izbasa has the advantage of knowing what it takes to beat out the world’s best gymnasts to earn top honors at the Olympics. While she may not have as much experience as Chusovitina, her 2008 win will help her this time around.

It is unlikely that anyone will threaten Maroney, but Izbasa will certainly be in medal contention and prepared to capitalize on any mistake made by the American.