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Why the “wolf turn” is such a big deal

A deceptively difficult gymnastics turn.

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. The latest way to add value and distinguish a routine is a tricky skill called the wolf turn.

The wolf turn has 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 and this one from The Balance Beam Situation.

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