Gymnastics facts for kids

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Lauren Mitchell, 41st AG World Championship, 2009 (full tone blur)
Australian artistic gymnast Lauren Mitchell does a layout step-out during the 2009 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in London.
Gymnastics brokenchopstick
A gymnast on the pommel horse at a competition.

Gymnastics is a sport which involves doing exercises which need strength, flexibility, balance and control. This may include running, jumping, tumbling, somersaulting, flipping and balancing.

In women's gymnastics, there are four activities: floor, uneven bars, balance beam, and vault. In men's gymnastics, there are six activities: floor exercise, parallel bars, high bar, pommel horse, vault, and rings.

Gymnastics is an Olympic sport.

History

Gymnastics began as a form of exercise in ancient Greece. It was one of the first sports in the Olympics. Originally, only men were allowed to compete in the Olympic Games, but there was another festival at which women competed, the Herean Games.

Forms of gymnastics

Artistic gymnastics

Artistic Gymnastics is usually divided into Men's and Women's Gymnastics. Men compete on six events: Floor Exercise, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars, and Horizontal Bar, while women compete on four: Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise. In some countries, women at one time competed on the rings, high bar, and parallel bars (for example, in the 1950s in the USSR).

In 2006, FIG introduced a new points system for Artistic gymnastics in which scores are no longer limited to 10 points. The system is used in the US for elite level competition. Unlike the old code of points, there are two separate scores, an execution score and a difficulty score. In the previous system, the "execution score" was the only score. It was and still is out of 10.00, except for short exercises. During the gymnast's performance, the judges deduct this score only. A fall, on or off the event, is a 1.00 deduction, in elite level gymnastics. The introduction of the difficulty score is a significant change. The gymnast's difficulty score is based on what elements they perform and is subject to change if they do not perform or complete all the skills, or they do not connect a skill meant to be connected to another. Connection bonuses are where deviation happens most common between the intended and actual difficulty scores, as it can be difficult to connect multiple flight elements. It is very hard to connect skills if the first skill is not performed correctly. The new code of points allows the gymnasts to gain higher scores based on the difficulty of the skills they perform as well as their execution. There is no maximum score for difficulty, as it can keep increasing as the difficulty of the skills increase.

Artistic events for women

PIked Tsukahara L9 Reginals
Piked Tsukahara vault.
Vault

In the vaulting events, gymnasts sprint down a 25 metres (82 ft) runway, jump onto a springboard (or perform a roundoff or handspring entry onto a springboard), land momentarily inverted on the hands on the vaulting horse or vaulting table (pre-flight segment), then propel themselves forward or backward off that platform to a two-footed landing (post-flight segment). Every gymnast starts at a different point on the vault runway depending on their height and strength. The post-flight segment may include one or more multiple saltos, somersaults, or twisting movements. A round-off entry vault, called a Yurchenko, is the most common vault in the higher levels in gymnastics. When performing a Yurchenko, gymnasts "round off" so their hands are on the runway while their feet land on the springboard. From the roundoff position, the gymnast travels backwards and executes a back handspring so that the hands land on the vaulting table. The gymnast then blocks off the vaulting platform into various twisting and/or somersaulting combinations. The post-flight segment brings the gymnast to her feet. In the lower levels of gymnastics, the gymnasts do not perform this move. These gymnasts will jump onto the springboard with both feet at the same time and either do a front handspring onto the vault or a roundoff onto the vault.

In 2001, the traditional vaulting horse was replaced with a new apparatus, sometimes known as a tongue, horse or vaulting table. The new apparatus is more stable, wider, and longer than the older vaulting horse, approximately 1 m in length and 1 m in width, giving gymnasts a larger blocking surface. This apparatus is thus considered safer than the vaulting horse used in the past. With the addition of this new, safer vaulting table, gymnasts are attempting more difficult and dangerous vaults.

Skubik on Uneven Bars 2006
Gymnast on uneven bars.
Uneven bars

On the uneven bars, the gymnast performs a timed routine on two parallel horizontal bars set at different heights. These bars are made of fiberglass covered in wood laminate, to prevent them from breaking. In the past, bars were made of wood, but the bars were prone to breaking, providing an incentive to switch to newer technologies. The width and height of the bars may be adjusted to the size needed by individual gymnasts. In the past, the uneven parallel bars were closer together. The bars have been moved increasingly further apart, allowing gymnasts to perform swinging, circling, transitional, and release moves that may pass over, under, and between the two bars. At the Elite level, movements must pass through the handstand. Gymnasts often mount the uneven bars using a springboard or a small mat. Chalk (MgCO3) and grips (a leather strip with holes for fingers to protect hands and improve performance) may be used by gymnasts performing this event. The chalk helps take the moisture out of gymnasts' hands to decrease friction and prevent rips (tears to the skin of the hands); dowel grips help gymnasts grip the bar.

Balance beam
Dorina Böczögő, balance beam, 2013
Dorina Böczögő performing a one arm press hold during her balance beam mount, 2013.

The gymnast performs a choreographed routine of up to 90 seconds in length consisting of leaps, acrobatic skills, somersaults, turns and dance elements on a padded beam. The beam is 125 centimetres (4 ft 1 in) from the ground, 500 centimetres (16 ft 5 in) long, and 10 centimetres (3.9 in) wide. This stationary object can also be adjusted, to be raised higher or lower. The event requires balance, flexibility, grace, poise, and strength.

Floor
Double ring leap
Gymnast doing a stag leap on floor exercise.

The event in gymnastics performed on floor is called floor exercise. The English abbreviation for the event in gymnastics scoring is FX. In the past, the floor exercise event was executed on the bare floor or mats such as wrestling mats. The floor event now occurs on a carpeted 12m × 12m square, usually consisting of hard foam over a layer of plywood, which is supported by springs generally called a "spring" floor. This provides a firm surface that provides extra bounce or spring when compressed, allowing gymnasts to achieve greater height and a softer landing after the composed skill. Gymnasts perform a choreographed routine up to 90 seconds in the floor exercise event; Depending on the level, they may choose their own, or, if known as a "compulsory gymnast," default music must be played. Levels three to six the music is the same for each levels along with the skills within the routine. However, recently, the levels have switched. Now, levels 6-10 are optional levels and they get to have custom routines made. In the optional levels (levels six to ten) there are skill requirements for the routine but the athlete is able to pick her own music without any words. The routine should consist of tumbling passes, series of jumps, leaps, dance elements, acrobatic skills, and turns, or pivots, on one foot. A gymnast can perform up to four tumbling passes that usually includes at least one flight element without hand support. Each level of gymnastics requires the athlete to perform a different number of tumbling passes. In level 7 in the United States, a gymnast is required to do 2–3, and in levels 8–10, at least 3–4 tumbling passes are required.

Artistic events for men

Floor

Male gymnasts also perform on a 12meter x 12meter spring floor. A series of tumbling passes are performed to demonstrate flexibility, strength, and balance. Strength skills include circles, scales, and press handstands. Men's floor routines usually have multiple passes that have to total between 60–70 seconds and are performed without music, unlike the women's event. Rules require that male gymnasts touch each corner of the floor at least once during their routine.

Christopher Cameron, 2010
Chris Cameron on the pommel horse
Pommel horse

A typical pommel horse exercise involves both single leg and double leg work. Single leg skills are generally found in the form of scissors, an element often done on the pommels. Double leg work however, is the main staple of this event. The gymnast swings both legs in a circular motion (clockwise or counterclockwise depending on preference) and performs such skills on all parts of the apparatus. To make the exercise more challenging, gymnasts will often include variations on a typical circling skill by turning (moores and spindles) or by straddling their legs (Flares). Routines end when the gymnast performs a dismount, either by swinging his body over the horse, or landing after a handstand variation.

Still rings

The rings are suspended on wire cable from a point 5.75 meters from the floor. The gymnasts must perform a routine demonstrating balance, strength, power, and dynamic motion while preventing the rings themselves from swinging. At least one static strength move is required, but some gymnasts may include two or three. A routine ends with a dismount.

Vault

Gymnasts sprint down a runway, which is a maximum of 25 meters in length, before hurdling onto a spring board. The gymnast is allowed to choose where they start on the runway. The body position is maintained while "punching" (blocking using only a shoulder movement) the vaulting platform. The gymnast then rotates to a standing position. In advanced gymnastics, multiple twists and somersaults may be added before landing. Successful vaults depend on the speed of the run, the length of the hurdle, the power the gymnast generates from the legs and shoulder girdle, the kinesthetic awareness in the air, how well they stuck the landing and the speed of rotation in the case of more difficult and complex vaults.

Parallel bars

Men perform on two bars executing a series of swings, balances, and releases that require great strength and coordination. The width between the bars is adjustable dependent upon the actual needs of the gymnasts and usually 2m high,.

Horizontal bar

A 2.8 cm thick steel or fiberglass bar raised 2.5 m above the landing area is all the gymnast has to hold onto as he performs giant swings or giants (forward or backward revolutions around the bar in the handstand position), release skills, twists, and changes of direction. By using all of the momentum from giants and then releasing at the proper point, enough height can be achieved for spectacular dismounts, such as a triple-back salto. Leather grips are usually used to help maintain a grip on the bar.

As with women, male gymnasts are also judged on all of their events including their execution, degree of difficulty, and overall presentation skills.

Scoring (code of points)

A gymnast's score comes from deductions taken from their start value. The start value of a routine is based on the difficulty of the elements the gymnast attempts and whether or not the gymnast meets composition requirements. The composition requirements are different for each apparatus; this score is called the D score. Deductions in execution and artistry are taken from a maximum of 10.0. This score is called the E score. The final score is calculated by taking deductions from the E score, and adding the result to the D score. Since 2007, the scoring system has changed by adding bonus plus the execution and then adding those two together to get the final score.

Landing

In a tumbling pass, dismount or vault, landing is the final phase, following take off and flight This is a critical skill in terms of execution in competition scores, general performance, and injury occurrence. Without the necessary magnitude of energy dissipation during impact, the risk of sustaining injuries during somersaulting increases. These injuries commonly occur at the lower extremities such as: cartilage lesions, ligament tears, and bone bruises/fractures. To avoid such injuries, and to receive a high performance score, proper technique must be used by the gymnast. "The subsequent ground contact or impact landing phase must be achieved using a safe, aesthetic and well-executed double foot landing." A successful landing in gymnastics is classified as soft, meaning the knee and hip joints are at greater than 63 degrees of flexion.

A higher flight phase results in a higher vertical ground reaction force. Vertical ground reaction force represents external force which the gymnasts have to overcome with their muscle force and affects the gymnasts' linear and angular momentum. Another important variable that affects linear and angular momentum is time the landing takes. Gymnasts can decrease the impact force by increasing the time taken to perform the landing. Gymnasts can achieve this by increasing hip, knee and ankle amplitude.

Rhythmic gymnastics

Överspagat
Russian rhythmic gymnast Irina Tchachina stretching in her warm-up before practice.

According to FIG rules, only women compete in rhythmic gymnastics. This is a sport that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, dance, and apparatus manipulation. The sport involves the performance of five separate routines with the use of five apparatus; ball, ribbon, hoop, clubs, rope—on a floor area, with a much greater emphasis on the aesthetic rather than the acrobatic. There are also group routines consisting of 5 gymnasts and 5 apparatuses of their choice. Rhythmic routines are scored out of a possible 30 points; the score for artistry (choreography and music) is averaged with the score for difficulty of the moves and then added to the score for execution.

International competitions are split between Juniors, under sixteen by their year of birth; and Seniors, for women sixteen and over again by their year of birth. Gymnasts in Russia and Europe typically start training at a very young age and those at their peak are typically in their late teens (15–19) or early twenties. The largest events in the sport are the Olympic Games, World Championships, European Championships, World Cup and Grand-Prix Series. The first World Championships were held in 1963 with its first appearance at the Olympics in 1984.

Rhythmic gymnastics apparatus

Evgenia Kanaeva 2012 in Hard
Evgenia Kanaeva doing a Split leap in her hoop routine
Galima Shugurova 1973
Soviet Galina Shugurova performing an Attitude balance in her ball apparatus

Trampolining and tumbling

WAGC DMT
Double mini-trampoline competitor

Trampolining

Trampolining and tumbling consists of four events, individual and synchronized trampoline, double mini trampoline, and tumbling (also known as power tumbling or rod floor). Since 2000, individual trampoline has been included in the Olympic Games. The first World Championships were held in 1964.

Individual trampoline

Individual routines in trampolining involve a build-up phase during which the gymnast jumps repeatedly to achieve height, followed by a sequence of ten bounces without pause during which the gymnast performs a sequence of aerial skills. Routines are marked out of a maximum score of 10 points. Additional points (with no maximum at the highest levels of competition) can be earned depending on the difficulty of the moves and the length of time taken to complete the ten skills which is an indication of the average height of the jumps. In high level competitions, there are two preliminary routines, one which has only two moves scored for difficulty and one where the athlete is free to perform any routine. This is followed by a final routine which is optional. Some competitions restart the score from zero for the finals, other add the final score to the preliminary results.

Synchronized trampoline

Synchronized trampoline is similar except that both competitors must perform the routine together and marks are awarded for synchronization as well as the form and difficulty of the moves.

Double-mini trampoline

Double mini trampoline involves a smaller trampoline with a run-up, two scoring moves are performed per routine. Moves cannot be repeated in the same order on the double-mini during a competition. Skills can be repeated if a skill is competed as a mounter in one routine and a dismount in another. The scores are marked in a similar manner to individual trampoline.

Tumbling

In tumbling, athletes perform an explosive series of flips and twists down a sprung tumbling track. Scoring is similar to trampolining. Tumbling was originally contested as one of the events in Men's Artistic Gymnastics at the 1932 Summer Olympics, and in 1955 and 1959 at the Pan American Games. From 1974 to 1998 it was included as an event for both genders at the Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships. The event has also been contested since 1976 at the Trampoline World Championships. Since the recognition of Trampoline and Acrobatic Gymnastics as FIG disciplines in 1999, official Tumbling competitions are only allowed as an event in Trampoline gymnastics meets.

Acrobatic gymnastics

Acro-tcd
Acrobatic Women's Pair performing a skill.

Acrobatic gymnastics (formerly Sport Acrobatics), often referred to as "Acro" if involved with the sport, acrobatic sports or simply sports acro, is a group gymnastic discipline for both men and women. Acrobats in groups of two, three and four perform routines with the heads, hands and feet of their partners. They may, subject to regulations (e.g. no lyrics), pick their own music.

Most competitions require a balance and dynamic routine for each event, though some will do a single mixed event.

Aerobic gymnastics

Aerobic gymnastics (formally Sport Aerobics) involves the performance of routines by individuals, pairs, trios or groups up to 6 people, emphasizing strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness rather than acrobatic or balance skills. Routines are performed for all individuals on a 7x7m floor and also for 12–14 and 15-17 trios and mixed pairs. From 2009, all senior trios and mixed pairs were required to be on the larger floor (10x10m), all groups also perform on this floor. Routines generally last 60–90 seconds depending on age of participant and routine category. The World Championships have been held since 1995.

The events consist of:

  • Individual Women
  • Individual Men
  • Mixed Pairs
  • Trios
  • Groups
  • Dance
  • Step

Parkour

On January 28, 2018 Parkour was given the go ahead to begin development as a FIG sport. The FIG is planning to run World Cup competitions from 2018 onwards and will hold the first Parkour World Championships in 2020.

The events consist of:

  • Speedrun
  • Freestyle


In rhythmic gymnastics, gymnasts perform with ribbons, rope, ball, hoop and clubs. Usually, only women do rhythmic gymnastics because they are more flexible then boys

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