Performance is scored on a 10-point scale. For each routine, the gymnast begins
with less than a perfect score—9.0 for women, 8.6 for men. From that
base, judges deduct for flaws in execution, exceeding the time limit, or
failing to perform a required movement. Judges can also award bonus points,
up to 1.0 for women, up to 1.4 for men. Bonuses are given for outstanding
execution of the most difficult moves.
Gymnastics competitions are divided into four parts—a qualifying competition,
the team final, the all-around final, and the apparatus final. To qualify,
gymnasts perform an optional exercise on each apparatus. (Compulsory exercises
were eliminated after the Atlanta Games.) Each team from each country in the
team finals is made up of six gymnasts. Five gymnasts perform unique, optional
exercises on each apparatus; four scores count, with the lowest score in each
rotation discarded. The sum of the top four scores is the team score. The thirty-six
gymnasts who achieved the highest combined individual scores in the team finals
then move on to the individual all-around final. However, only three gymnasts
from each nation may compete in the final, regardless of where they ranked
in the top thirty-six. Each gymnast performs an optional routine on each apparatus—four
for women; six for men. However, the women’s vault consists of two vaults
with the scores averaged. The Olympic all-around champion is the competitor
with the highest cumulative score. For the apparatus finals, the top eight
scorers on each apparatus during the qualifying competition move on to this
concluding event. There is a limit of two gymnasts from each nation per apparatus.
Each gymnast completes one exercise on the apparatus for which he or she qualified.
The exception is in the men’s and women’s vault, where two vaults
are performed and the scores averaged for the final score.
The Federation Internationale Gymnastique (FIG) has established a definite
order in which gymnastics events must be performed. In the following order,
men must perform the floor exercise, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel
bars, and horizontal bar. Women must perform the vault, uneven bars, balance
beam, and floor exercise.
Floor Exercise—This routine is performed on a 12-meter-square mat. The
men’s routine lasts from 50 to 70 seconds and is always performed without
music. Both the compulsory and the freestyle routines must include required
tumbling and static maneuvers demonstrating balance, strength, flexibility,
routine is performed on a leather-covered apparatus,
in the center of which are inserted two wooden
pommels, or handles. The exercise is composed
of clean leg swings, and the routine must cover
the entire length of the horse. Each routine
must include at least three scissors, in which
the legs split and alternately straddle the
horse with pendulum-like swinging motions.
Only the hands may be used for support; no
other part of the body is to touch the apparatus
throughout the entire routine. The legs must
remain straight and the toes pointed at all
Rings—The two rings
are suspended from the ceiling and hang 2.55
meters above the floor. This event requires
the most strength of all the gymnastic exercises.
A routine consists of handstands, body swings,
and the holding of static positions, such as
the famous “iron cross.” It is
important that while the body is swinging,
the rings remain motionless. The dismount usually
includes difficult twists and/or somersaults.
Vault—Men use the
same horse for vaulting that they do for their
pommel horse routines. The athlete takes off
from a springboard, pushes off with both hands
placed on the surface of the apparatus, then
completes his flight with acrobatic twists,
turns, and somersaults before making a controlled
landing. For men, most vaults are executed
over the length of the “horse.”
routine is performed on two flexible parallel
wooden rails. A routine employs a continuous
series of swinging moves, static holds, and
midair somersaults, capped by spectacular flying
routine is performed on a single steel bar,
2.55 meters off the ground. A routine requires
static handstands at the top of the bar, as
well as one-handed and two-handed swings around
the bar, somersaults, and vaults over the bar
before it is grasped again. The dismount begins
with giant swings that produce a high flying
arc and allow for multiple twists and somersaults
prior to the controlled landing.
Vault—The women’s vaulting “horse” or apparatus has
no pommels. Moreover, women approach perpendicular to the apparatus and vault
it from the side. The gymnast runs full speed down a 1219-1829 cm (40-60 feet)
runway and takes off from a 119.38 cm (3 feet, 11 inch) springboard. Women
must execute any of three types of vaults: handstand, horizontal vault, or
a vault with turns. On landing, only one step may be taken without incurring
a penalty, and that step must be in the direction of the descent.
Uneven Bars—This routine
is performed on a set of flexible wooden parallel
bars, the uppermost set 2.45 meters and the
lower set 1.65 meters above the floor. A good
performance demands continuous swinging and
vaulting over, under, and between the bars,
with a formal mount and dismount part of the
Balance Beam—The balance
beam is 5 meters long, 10 cm wide, and 1.25
meters above the floor. A routine consists
of tumbling moves, turns, leaps, and suspended
static positions. The formal mount and dismount
are among the most dramatic maneuvers of the
is considered the most artistic of all gymnastic
disciplines, as it combines modern and classical
dance steps with tumbling and acrobatics. The
entire routine is performed to music of the
gymnast’s own choosing. Although
there are required movements, no other event
encourages such expression of personality and
freedom of execution.
This newest Olympic gymnastics discipline may be best described as a cross
between a floor exercise and classical ballet. It approaches the area of
dance and tends to favor the more mature gymnast. Rhythmic gymnastics requires
smooth, graceful body movements while performing with handheld apparatus
such as the hoop, ball, clubs, rope, and ribbon. Only one apparatus may be
used at a time. Unlike the floor exercise, however, there are no airborne
acrobatic moves; at least one part of the body must remain in contact with
the 12-meter-square floor mat at all times. Everything is done to music,
and gymnasts often choose classical or other soft, melodious tunes. (Floor
exercise routines, by contrast, are often performed to jazz or other upbeat
tempos.) Rhythmic events are judged on the same 10-point scale and evaluated
according to choreographic quality and originality, harmony, precision, and
Athletes perform two routines of ten skills each, which include double, triple,
and twisting somersaults. Scoring is on the same 10-point scale as that used
in gymnastics events.
This event needs precision timing, as two athletes perform the same ten skills.
They mirror one another.
This event combines the run of tumbling with the rebound of trampoline. The
athlete runs, jumps onto a two-level trampoline, rebounds, and dismounts
onto a landing mat. Some compare this event to springboard diving using a
mat instead of water.
and Fast Facts
Gymnastics can be one of the most difficult
sports for spectators to watch because it has
a very specialized terminology. Click on the
links below for glossaries to get you primed
for the Games ahead.
General Sports Links
Olympians will compete in dozens of sports this summer. Even though Gateway
to the Summer Games can't feature them all, you can learn about each and
every one by visiting the sites listed below.