Utah gymnast Grace McCallum perfected this move in search of perfect results

For this reason, the “wolf spin” has become a central step in collegiate gymnastics

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Grace McCallum on beam during the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday March 19, 2022.

Drop into a deep squat and extend one leg straight out to the side. Now spin – actually spin a few times – on a balance beam and make it perfect.

The move, dubbed the “Wolf Turn” in the gymnastics world, is a striking feat of physics and strength performed in a matter of seconds.

Ever since Simone Biles used it at the 2016 Olympics, its popularity in the elite and collegiate world is on the rise. Among those performing the trick are Grace McCallum of Utah on the balance beam and Maile O’Keefe on the floor.

The rotation makes the movement challenging as the gymnast must immediately remain balanced and make any necessary adjustments to keep the axis of rotation vertical.

To begin the rotation, the gymnast brings the straight leg in toward the bent leg and rotates on the leg that is on the beam or floor, completing a full circle.

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O’Keefe, who has performed it since 2017-18, said the hard part is getting into a squat.

“Once you get there, it’s surprisingly easy,” she said. “You wouldn’t expect that because it looks so difficult, but I’m also good in corners personally.”

Utah assistant coach Carly Dockendorf jokes that she doesn’t actually coach the move but just lets them go, especially McCallum, who does a double turn but can do more in practice.

“I’m saying it looks like she’s spinning a pizza at Costco,” Dockendorf said. “I just let them do their thing.”

McCallum began working on the wolf spin when she first became an elite gymnast in 2018 and was soon doing a triple spin. She performs a double spin for the utes.

“I can do it in my sleep now,” she said. “When I learned it, it was really easy for me. You need good quad strength and core, but once you’re in the position, all you need to do is balance there. A lot of people screw up by leaning over and losing, but I’ve found what works for me.

It’s always interesting to hear what counts as “simple” from a gymnast’s perspective, as many of their simple moves seem near impossible to most fans. This move certainly falls into that category, as most observers will likely feel their kneecaps pop just thinking about deep squatting.

The move is compelling, however, because it’s not just about strength and agility, but also the grace to complete the twist. McCallum wears a special toe shoe that makes turning easier.

The move is rated an “E,” the most difficult category in collegiate gymnastics, giving McCallum a lot of trouble in a way that’s relatively safe for her.

“I saw her ride five times in a row in practice, it’s crazy,” Dockendorf said. “She just keeps going.”

McCallum’s move is expected by Utah’s audience, as evidenced by the reaction it elicits.

“I hear the crowd and I’m like, ‘Awww, I’m glad you like it that it’s my turn,'” she said. “I feel like it’s a little bit about my ‘wow’ ability.”

Publisher’s Note • This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

https://www.sltrib.com/sports/utah-utes/2022/03/27/utah-gymnast-grace/ Utah gymnast Grace McCallum perfected this move in search of perfect results

Jessica MacLeish

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