Gymnastics: What is It?
So what exactly is the sport of “Gymnastics”?
Gymnastics is a sport that combines both mental and physical aspects of the body. Gymnasts must be agile, flexible, confident, and strong. The sport of Women’s Gymnastics is comprised of four competitive events: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise. Each event works a different piece of the body. For example, bars requires a lot of upper body strength while vault requires a lot of leg strength. In order to be a good all-around gymnast, you must be strong in all areas of competition.
Vault is performed by running 50-70 feet down a foam runway, hitting a springboard, and soaring over a vaulting table performing numerous acrobatic skills in the process. A gymnast is usually allowed two vaults in a competition and their score is taken from the best vault or a combination of the two vaults. A general compulsory vault is a front handspring, in which a gymnast hits the springboard facing the table and then goes over the vault using their hands and passing through a handstand position. Optional and collegiate level vaults are much more complicated and involve facing both towards and away from the table upon entry and performing numerous flips and spins during the off flight of the vault.
The event of bars consists of about a minute long routine in which a gymnast uses the low bar and high bar. Depending on their level, a gymnast may transfer from low bar to high bar (or vise versa) 1-3 times during the routine. A typical bar routine consists of many kips, casts to handstand, pirouettes, release moves for upper levels, and a dismount. If a gymnast falls at any point in her routine she may jump back up and continue, taking a .5 deduction for the fall.
Balance beam is often seen as the most nerve racking event in Women’s Gymnastics. Not only does beam require a ton of balance and flexibility, but it requires an extreme amount of confidence as well. During a beam routine, gymnasts perform many turns, flips, leaps, and jumps all on a 4 inch wide beam that is 4 feet off the ground. Gymnasts must use the length of the whole beam in their routine and must not go over time. If a gymnast goes over the time limit a .1 deduction is issued. Also, like bars, if a gymnast falls, she is allowed to get back up and finish her routine, but is given a .5 deduction.
A typical floor routine includes 1-3 tumbling passes (depending on the gymnast’s level), leaps, turns, and jumps on a spring floor that is 40 x 40 feet. Floor routines are performed to music and every skill done during the routine must remain in the designated floor area. If they step out of bounds a .1 deduction is given.
Levels of Women’s Gymnastics
There a five major levels in women’s gymnastics; Compulsory, Optional, Elite, Collegiate, and Olympic. Compulsory gymnasts compete levels 1-6 and perform the same routine on each event. Optional gymnasts compete levels 7-10 and have individually choreographed routines on each event. Elite level gymnasts are the top level of optional gymnasts. Collegiate gymnasts may only compete one event, or they may compete all four. They also have individually choreographed routines. Olympic gymnasts are the highest level of women’s gymnastics and have the honor of representing their country on one to four events at the Olympic Games.