Artistic gymnastics

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Artistic gymnastics is a discipline of gymnastics in which competitors perform short routines (ranging from approximately 30 to 90 seconds) on different apparatus, obviously less for vaulting (see lists below).

Artistic gymnastics is one of the most popular spectator sports at the Summer Olympic Games, although it is not a particularly popular participant sport, as performing at even a basic level requires very high levels of fitness and skill which take more training than many people are prepared to commit. In addition, in many nations, gymnastics is an expensive sport. However, the discipline of general gymnastics is geared more towards participation for fun and fitness, rather than competition, and attracts a respectable number of participants including retired gymnasts.

The apparatus used in Men's Artistic Gymnastics (MAG), and Women's Artistic Gymnastics (WAG) differ, with the unique men's apparatus particularly emphasizing strength requirements and the women's apparatus emphasizing artistry, balance and agility.

The sport of gymnastics is governed by the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique, or FIG. The FIG designs the Code of Points and regulates all aspects of international elite competition. Within individual countries, gymnastics is regulated by national federations, such as BAGA in Great Britain and USA Gymnastics in the United States.


[edit] Format of competition

Currently, in a full elite international competition, the meet is divided into several sessions: team qualifying, team finals, all-around finals and event finals.

During the team qualifying (abbreviated TQ) round, gymnasts compete with their national squad on all four/six apparatus. The scores from the session are used to determine which teams advance to the team finals and which individual gymnasts advance to the all-around and event finals. The current format of this session is 6-5-4, meaning that there are six gymnasts on the team, five compete, and four of the scores count.

In the team finals (abbreviated TF), gymnasts compete with their national squad on all four/six apparatus. The scores from the session are used to determine the medalists of the team competition. The current format is 6-3-3, meaning that there are six gymnasts on the team, three compete, and all three scores count.

In the all-around finals (abbreviated AA), the gymnnasts are individual competitors and perform on all four/six apparatus. The scores from this session are used to award the all-around medals. Only two gymnasts from each country may advance to the all-around finals.

In the event finals (abbreviated EF) or apparatus finals, the top eight gymnasts on each event compete for medals. Only two gymnasts from each country may advance to each EF.

[edit] New Life

Currently, competitions use the New Life scoring rule, which was introduced in the late 1980s (1989 or so). Under New Life, marks from one session do not carry over to the next. In other words, a gymnast's performance in team finals does not affect his or her scores in the all-around finals or event finals; he or she starts with a clean slate.

[edit] Compulsories

Before 1997, the team competition was structured differently. It still consisted of two sessions. However, gymnasts performed compulsory exercises in the preliminaries and their optional routines on the second day. The team medals were awarded on the combined scores of both days. All-around and event final qualifiers were also determined according to the combined scores.

The optionals were the gymnasts' personal routines, developed with their coaches to adhere to the requirements of the Code of Points. They were performed in the team finals, the all-around and the event finals.

The compulsories were routines that were developed and choreographed by the FIG Technical Committee. They were performed on the first day of the team competition. Every single elite gymnast in every single FIG member nation performed the exact same exercises. The dance and tumbling skills of compulsory routines were generally less difficult than those of the optionals, but heavily emphasized perfect technique, form and execution. Scoring was exacting, with judges taking deductions for even slight deviations from the required choreography. For this reason, many gymnasts and coaches considered compulsories more challenging to perform than optionals.

Compulsories were eliminated at the end of 1996. The move was extremely controversial, and many successful gymnastics federations, including Russia, the United States and China, voted against the abolition of compulsories. They argued that the exercises helped maintain a high standard of form, technique and execution among gymnasts. Opponents believed that compulsories harmed emerging gymnastics programs. Many members of the gymnastics community still argue that compulsories should be reinstated.

Many gymnastics federations have maintained compulsories in their national programs. Gymnasts competing at the lower levels of the sport – for instance, Level 4-6 in USA Gymnastics and Grade 2 in South Africa – frequently only perform compulsory routines.

[edit] Age limits

The FIG imposes a minimum age limit on gymnasts competing in international meets. The term senior, in gymnastics, refers to any world-class/elite gymnast who is age-eligible under FIG rules.

Currently, gymnasts must be at least sixteen years of age, or turning sixteen within the calendar year to compete in senior-level events. The one exception to this rule is the year before the Olympics, when gymnasts who are one year shy of the age requirement may compete at the Worlds and other meets. For instance, gymnasts born in 1988 were allowed to compete in senior events in 2003. This is permitted to allow nations to qualify to the Olympics with their best teams, and to give emerging gymnasts some experience in major competition before the Olympics.

The term junior refers to any gymnast who competes at a world-class/elite level, but is too young to be classified as a senior. Juniors are judged under the same Code of Points as the seniors, and often exhibit the same level of difficulty in their routines.

Only senior gymnasts are allowed to compete in the Olympics, World Championships and World Cup. However, many meets, such as the European Championships and Pacific Alliance, have separate divisions for juniors. Additionally, some competitions, such as the Goodwill Games, the Pam Am Games and the All-Africa Games, have rules that permit seniors and juniors to compete together.

The minimum age requirement is arguably one of the most contentious rules in artistic gymnastics, and is frequently debated by coaches, gymnasts and other members of the gymnastics community. Those in favor of the age limits argue that they promote the participation of older athletes in the sport, and that they spare younger gymnasts from the stress of competition and training at a high level. Opponents of the rule point out that junior gynnasts are scored under the exact same Code of Points as the seniors, and train, mostly, the same skills. They also feel that younger gymnasts need the experience of participating in major meets in order to become better athletes; and that if a junior has the skills and maturity to be competitive with seniors, he or she should be allowed that opportunity.

Another point that frequently arises in this debate is the issue of age falsification. Since stricter age limit rules were first adopted in the early 1980s, there have been several well-documented, and many more suspected, cases of juniors with falsified documents competing as seniors. In only one case -- that of Kim Gwang Suk of North Korea, who competed at the 1989 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships at the approximate age of eleven -- has the FIG taken any disciplinary action.

While the minimum age requirement applies to both WAG and MAG, it is far more contentious in WAG. Most top male gymnasts are in their late teens or early twenties; female gymnasts are typically ready to compete at the international level by their mid-teens.

[edit] Scoring and the Code of Points

Scoring at the international level is regulated by the Code of Points. At the elite level there is a panel of judges; the score is the average of the panel's marks with the highest and lowest scores thrown out. Under the new Code of Points there will be two different panels judging every routine, evaulating different aspects of the performance.

Before 2006, every routine was assigned a Start Value (SV). A routine with maximum SV performed perfectly was worth a 10.0. A A routine with all required elements was automatically given a base SV (9.4 in 1996; 9.0 in 1997; 8.8 in 2001); it was up to the gymnast to increase the SV to 10.0 by performing difficult skills and combinations.

The Code of Points has traditionally been revised after every Olympic cycle. However, for 2006, the entire COP was completed dismantled and overhauled. The most significant change of the new and controversial Code is the abandonment of the "Perfect 10". Instead, scoring will be open-ended. Theoretically this means that scores could go infinitely high, though it is thought that the average marks for routines will be somewhere around the mid-teens.

As of February 2006, the Code has not yet been used in a World Championships or Olympic meet, and it remains to be seen how it will affect team and individual gymnasts. Many gymnastics insiders, coaches, officials and gymnasts have protested the new Code, which eliminates the "perfect 10", with Olympic gold medalists Lilia Podkopayeva, Svetlana Boguinskaya,Shannon Miller and Vitaly Scherbo publicly voicing their opposition. FIG officials, including FIG president Bruno Grandi and Women's Technical Committee member and Olympic gold medalist Nellie Kim, argue that this alteration was designed with the help and advices from the majority of FIG member federations and many judges. They also underline, that this system will be tested on major international events before the final adoption.

[edit] History

Gymnastics as a system of harmonious sports training originated in the Ancient Greece more than 2,000 years ago, although gymnastic exercises and even some sort of apparatus were used in the ancient China and India for medical purposes much earlier. The system was mentioned in works by ancient authors, such as Homer, Aristotle and Plato. It included many disciplines, which would later become separate sports: swimming, race, wrestling, boxing, riding, etc. <ref>(Russian)Template:Cite web</ref> and was also used for the military training. In its present form gymnastics evolved in Germany and Czechoslovakia in the beginning of the 19th century, and the term "artistic gymnastics" was introduced at the same time to distinguish free styles from the ones used by the military.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> A German educator Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, who was known as the father of gymnastics <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>, invented several apparatus, including the horizontal bar and parallel bars which are used to this day. Two of the first gymnastics clubs were Turnvereins and Sokols.

In 1881 International Gymnastics Federation was founded and remains the governing body of international gymnastics since then. It included only three countries and was called European Gymnastics Federation until 1921, when the first non-European countries joined the federation, and it was reorganized into its present form. Gymnastics was included into the program of the 1896 Summer Olympics, but women were allowed to participate in the Olympics only since 1928. World Championships, held since 1903 also remained for men only until 1934. Since that time two branches of artistic gymnastics have been developing – WAG and MAG – which, unlike men's and women's branches of many other sports, are much different in apparatus used at the major competitions, in techniques and concerns.

[edit] Women's Artistic Gymnastics (WAG)

Women's artistic gymnastics entered the Olympics as a team event in 1928. At the first gymnastics World Championships in 1950, WAG as it is known today was included, with competition in team, all-around and apparatus final events. At the next Olympics, in 1952, this format was adopted; it has remained as such to this day.

The earliest champions in women's gymnastics tended to be in their 20s; most had studied ballet for years before entering the sport. Larissa Latynina, the first great Soviet gymnast, won her first Olympic all-around medal at the age of 22, her second at 26 and her third at 30; she became the 1957 World Champion while pregnant with her daughter. Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, who followed Latynina to become a two-time Olympic all around champion, was 22 before she started winning gold medals.

In the 1970s, the average age of Olympic gymnastics competitors began to gradually decrease. While it was not unheard of to for teenagers to compete in the 1960s--Ludmilla Tourischeva was sixteen at her first Olympics in 1968--they slowly became the norm as difficulty in gymnastics increased. Smaller, lighter girls generally excelled in the more challenging acrobatic elements required by the redesigned Code of Points. The 58th Congress of the FIG, held in July 1980, just before the Olympics, decided to raise the minimum age limit for major international senior competition from fourteen to fifteen <ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> – the change, which came into effect two years later. This didn't eliminate the problem, and by the time the 1992 Olympics rolled around, elite competitors consisted almost exclusively of "pixies"--underweight, prepubertal teenagers and concerns were raised about athlete welfare.

The FIG responded to this trend by raising the minimum age requirement for international elite competition to sixteen in 1997. This, combined with changes in the Code of Points and evolving popular opinion in the sport, have seen older gymnasts return to competition. While the average elite female gymnast is still in her middle to late teens and of below-average height and weight, it is also common to see gymnasts competing well into their twenties. At the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne, the silver medalist on vault, Oksana Chusovitina, was a thirty-year old mother. At the 2004 Olympics, both the second place American team and the third placed Russians were captained by women in their mid twenties; several other teams, including Australia, France and Canada, had older gymnasts.

[edit] Men's Artistic Gymnastics (MAG)

Major events in men's artistic gymnastics are held since 1896, when the sport was included into the Olympic program. In MAG's early history the format of gymnastics competitions was not strictly defined, which resulted in many experiments. Such exotic sports as rope climbing and club swinging were included into the gymnastics competition of the early Olympics. World gymnastics championships were not an exception: the competition there comprised swimming and some athletics events in 1922 and 1930. Swimming was not competed later, but athletics fully disappeared from the Worlds only in 1954. <ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, rings and vault events were competed since the first Olympics, while the team competition – since 1900, all-around – since 1904 and the floor exercise – since 1932. Olympic program has been fixed in its modern form since 1936.

[edit] Major competitions

[edit] Global

  • Olympic Games. Artistic gymnastics is one of the most popular events at the Summer Olympics, held every four years. Gymnastics teams qualify for the Olympics based on their performance at the World Championships the year before the Games. Nations that do not qualify high enough to send a full team may qualify to send one or two individual gymnasts.
  • World Gymnastics Championships. The gymnastics-only World Championships is open to teams from every FIG-member nation. The competition has had several different formats, depending on the year: full team finals/AA/EF; AA/EF only; EF only.
  • Goodwill Games: Artistic gymnastics was an event at this now-defunct competition.

[edit] Regional

  • All-Africa Games. Gymnastics is one of the events in this multi-sport competition, held every four years, and open to teams and gymnasts from African nations.
  • Asian Games. Artistic gymnastics is one of the events in this multi-sport competition, held every four years, and open to teams and gymnasts from Asian nations.
  • Commonwealth Games: Artistic gymnastics is one of the events in this multi-sport competition, held every four years, and open to teams and gymnasts from Commonwealth nations.
  • European Championships: The gymnastics-only European Championships is held every two years, and is open to teams and gymnasts from European nations.
  • Pacific Alliance Championships: This gymnastics-only competition is held every two years and is open to teams from members of the Pacific Alliance of National Gymnastics Federations, including the USA, China, Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and several other nations on the Pacific coast.
  • Pan American Games: Gymnastics is one of the events in this multi-sport competition, held every four years, and open to teams and gymnasts from North, South and Central America.

[edit] National

Most countries hold a major competition (a National Championships, or "Nationals") every year that determines the best-performing AA and EF gymnasts in their country. Gymnasts may also qualify to their country's national team or be selected for international meets based on their scores at Nationals.

[edit] Dominant teams and nations

USSR/Russia/Ukraine: Before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Soviet gymnasts dominated both men's and women's gymnastics. Between 1952 and 1992, the Soviet women's squad won almost every single team title in World Championship competition and at the Summer Olympics: the only four exceptions were the 1984 Olympics, which they did not attend, and the 1966, 1979 and 1987 World Championships. Most of the famous Soviet gymnasts were from the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and the Byelorussian SSR.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has maintained the tradition of gymnastics excellence, medalling at every Worlds and Olympic event in both MAG and WAG disciplines. Ukraine also has a strong team; Ukrainian Lilia Podkopayeva was the all-around champion at the 1996 Olympics. Belarus has maintained a strong men's team. Other former republics have been somewhat less successful.

Romania: The Romanian team first achieved wide-scale success at the 1976 Olympics with the tremendous success of Nadia Comaneci. Since then, using the centralized training system pioneered by Béla Károlyi, they have been a dominant force in both team and individual events in WAG. Romania was the only team ever to defeat the Soviets in head to head competition at the World Championships/Olympic level with their victories at the 1979 and 1987 Worlds. They also won the team titles at the 1984, 2000 and 2004 Olympics, and have had at least one individual medalist in every event at every major competition since 1976. The Romanian men's team has been less successful as a whole, but have still produced individual gold medalists at almost every major contest in recent years and have won at least one team medal.

United States: While isolated American gymnasts, including Kurt Thomas and Cathy Rigby, won medals in World Championship meets in the 1970s, the United States team was largely considered a "second power" until the mid to late 1980s, when American gymnasts began medaling consistently in major, fully attended competitions. In 1991 Kim Zmeskal became the first American World Champion; the following year at the 1992 Olympics the American women won their first team medal (bronze) in a fully attended Games. In recent years the U.S team has continued to succeed with the 1996 Olympic team victory of the Magnificent Seven in Atlanta, the 2003 Worlds team victory in Anaheim, and a multiple medal haul in both WAG and MAG at the 2004 Olympics. At the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne, American women won the all-around and every single event final gold, excepting vault.

China has developed strong, successful programs in both WAG and MAG over the past twenty five years, earning both team and individual medals. The Chinese men's team won the team gold at the 2000 Olympics and consistently places in the top three in most Worlds and Olympic events. The Chinese women's team has produced many individual medals, however, until their team gold medal at the 2006 World Championships, problems with inconsistency kept them from ever winning team or all-around gold at Worlds or Olympics.

Japan was largely dominant in MAG during the 1960s and 1970s, winning every team title at every single Olympics from 1960 through 1976. Several innovations pioneered by Japanese gymnasts during this era have remained in the sport, including the Tsukahara vault. Japanese gynnasts continue to be a strong force in MAG competition, and won another team gold at the 2004 Olympics.

The German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, had an extremely successful gymnastics program before the reuinification of Germany. Both the MAG and WAG teams frequently won silver or bronze team medals at the World Championships and Olympics; individual GDR gymnasts often medalled in the all-around and the event finals.

Over the past decade, many other nations have emerged as serious contenders in both WAG and MAG. Hungary, Germany, Korea, Canada, Spain, Italy, Australia, Brazil, France and Great Britain, among other countries, have produced Worlds and Olympic medalists. The Australian women's team took the bronze medal at the 2003 World Championships; two years later, Australian Monette Russo captured the all-around bronze at the 2005 Worlds. Italy's MAG and WAG programs have also emerged as serious contenders for World and Olympic medals in recent years, with Italian women winning the all-around and team titles at the 2005 and 2006 European Championships over both Russia and Romania.

[edit] Apparatus

WAG apparatus (in Olympic order):

MAG apparatus (in Olympic order):

Equipment and uniforms:

[edit] See also

[edit] External links and references

[edit] Footnotes

<references />

[edit] Online magazines and databases

[edit] Websites of the federations

[edit] Other resources

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Artistic gymnastics

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