Rhythmic Gymnastics

By Amy Van Deusen

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Rhythmic Gymnastics
Yekaterina Serebrianskaya performing a clubs routine

© 2008 Steve Lange

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gymnastics apparatus
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rhythmic gymnastics
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In rhythmic gymnastics the athletes perform with equipment instead of on equipment. Gymnasts perform jumps, tosses, leaps and other moves with different types of apparatus, and are judged much more on their grace, dance ability, and coordination than their power or tumbling prowess.

History of Rhythmic Gymnastics

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) officially recognized rhythmic gymnastics in 1962, and held the first World Championships for rhythmics in 1963 in Budapest, Hungary. Rhythmic gymnastics was added as an Olympic sport in 1984, and competition was held in the individual all-around. In 1996, group competition was added.

The Participants

Olympic rhythmic gymnastics has only female participants. Girls start at a young age, and become age-eligible to compete in the Olympic Games and other major international competitions on January 1st of their 16th year. (For example, a gymnast born Dec. 31, 1996 was age eligible for the 2012 Olympics).
In some countries, most notably Japan, males are beginning to participate in rhythmic gymnastics. In this hybrid form of gymnastics, the athletes also perform tumbling and martial arts skills.

Athletic Requirements

Top rhythmic gymnasts must have many qualities: balance, flexibility, coordination and strength are some of the most important. They also must possess psychological attributes such as the ability to compete under intense pressure and the discipline and work ethic to practice the same skills over and over again.

Rhythmic Gymnastics Apparatus

Rhythmic gymnasts compete with five different types of apparatus: rope, hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon. Floor exercise is also an event in the lower levels of competition. Poll: Which is your favorite apparatus in rhythmics?

Olympic competition consists of:
Individual All-Around: An athlete competes on four of the five events (every two years, one apparatus is rotated out for that time period) and the total score is added.

Group: Five gymnasts compete two different routines. In one routine, all of the athletes use the same piece of apparatus. In the second routine, the gymnasts use two different pieces of equipment (e.g. three gymnasts will use ball and two gymnasts will use hoop). One score is given for each routine, and the two are combined for a total score in the “group all-around.”


Rhythmic gymnastics has a top score of 20.0 for each event:
The Execution Score (E): Starts at a 10.0 and deductions are taken for technical faults (such as catching the apparatus incorrectly or losing the apparatus)

The Final Composition Score (A+D divided by 2): The Artistic Score (A) has a maximum of 10.0 and is based on the music and choreography. The Difficulty Score (D) starts at 0 and builds to a maximum of 10.0 depending on the skills performed.

Judge for Yourself

Though the Code of Points can be complicated, spectators can still identify great routines without knowing every nuance of the Code. When watching a routine, be sure to look for:
Good Form and Execution: In elements such as leaps and jumps, a gymnast’s toes should be pointed, her legs should be straight and she should maintain a tightness in her body. Each skill should look planned.

Control of the Apparatus: The gymnast should keep her equipment moving, and should look as if she has complete control of it. Dropping the apparatus is a deduction. If the equipment rolls away or off the floor, more penalties are incurred.

Flexibility: Rhythmic gymnasts should achieve a minimum of a 180-degree split on split leaps and jumps, and oftentimes they go much further (see image above). A great rhythmic gymnast will exhibit flexibility in her back, legs and shoulders.

Choreography: The intricacies of movement are very important in rhythmic gymnastics. Each routine should be a performance – and the gymnast’s music should be an important part of the routine, not simply used as background music.

Uniqueness of the Routine: A great gymnast will perform a routine that looks different from the rest. It will have something special about it – risky throws and catches, complicated choreography, extreme flexibility or skills that are simply unique from others performed in the competition.



Women’s Artistic Gymnastics

By Amy Van Deusen

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Women’s Artistic Gymnastics
The gymnast in the foreground is performing on the balance beam, while the gymnast in the background competes on the uneven bars. These are two of the four events in women’s artistic gymnastics.

© 2007 Barskaya

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Women’s artistic gymnastics is the most popular form of gymnastics in the United States. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), there are approximately 4.5 million artistic gymnasts in the United States, and 71% of them are female. Of those girls and women, approximately 67,000 compete in the US Junior Olympic program, while others participate in AAU, YMCA or other programs.

The History

The first women competed in artistic gymnastics in the 1928 Olympics. The sport was very different than it is today, however: there was only a team event. At the 1950 world championships, women’s artistic gymnastics debuted in its present form, with competition in team, all-around and the individual events.

The Participants

As the name conveys, women’s artistic gymnastics has all-female participants. Gymnasts often

start very young, and begin to compete at the lowest levels at about age six. Currently, a gymnast becomes age-eligible for the Olympic Games on January 1st of her 16th year. (For example, a gymnast born Dec. 31, 1996 was age eligible for the 2012 Olympics). Elite gymnasts vary in age, however, and many gymnasts are now competing into their 20s and sometimes even their early 30s.

Athletic Requirements

Top artistic gymnasts must have many different attributes: strength, balance, flexibility, air sense and grace are some of the most important. They also must possess psychological qualities such as the courage to attempt difficult tricks and to compete under intense pressure, and the discipline and work ethic to practice a routine many times.

The Events

Female artistic gymnasts compete in four events:

Vault: The gymnast runs down a runway, jumps onto a springboard, and is propelled over a vaulting “table” about 4 ft. off the ground.

Uneven Bars: The gymnast performs swings, release moves, pirouettes and a dismount using two horizontal bars set at different heights. The lower bar is usually about 5 ft. off the ground, and the high bar is about 8 ft. from the floor.

Balance Beam: The gymnast completes a choreographed routine with a mount, leaps, jumps, flips, turns and a dismount on a padded, wooden beam approximately 4 ft. high. The exercise may not be longer than 90 seconds.

Floor Exercise: The gymnast performs a choreographed routine to music of her choice. The routine usually consists of three or four tumbling passes, as well as leaps, jumps and dance moves, and cannot be longer than 90 seconds. The floor mat is 40 ft. by 40 ft. and is usually made of carpeting over padded foam and springs.


Famous Gymnasts

Shannon Miller

Find out all about the legends of gymnastics: the “Queen of Gymnastics” Nadia Comaneci, the first US Olympic all-around gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, and more recent stars such as Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles. (listed alphabetically by last name)

Simone Biles (USA)
Nadia Comaneci (Romania)
Dominique Dawes (USA)
Gabby Douglas (USA)
Paul Hamm (USA)
Jonathan Horton (USA)
Shawn Johnson (USA)
Nastia Liukin (USA)
McKayla Maroney (USA)
Chellsie Memmel (USA)
Shannon Miller (USA)
Dominique Moceanu (USA)
Aliya Mustafina (Russia)
Carly Patterson (USA)
Kyla Ross (USA)
Alicia Sacramone (USA)
Kerri Strug (USA)
Jordyn Wieber (USA)
Where Are They Now? Past Gymnastics Star