Gymnastics for Dummies
- Women’s Gymnastics Events in the 2012 Summer Olympics
Women gymnasts compete in three gymnastics events during the Summer Olympics — artistic gymnastics, trampoline, and rhythmic gymnastics. In artistic gymnastics, women compete in four events: floor exercises, vault, uneven bars, and balance beam.
Women’s artistic gymnastics (WAG) became an Olympic sport in 1928, although individual competitions on equipment did not occur until 1952. Although it seems like every time you tune into the Olympics, you find female gymnasts dancing their way across your screen, rhythmic gymnastics didn’t debut until 1984, although world competitions have been held since 1963. Trampoline was just added in 2000 during the Sydney games.
The difficulty of each gymnast’s routine determines the highest value she can earn — the start value. The judges take deductions from that start value to determine her final score. The team with the highest overall score wins the team finals. Individuals also compete for medals in each event and for individual all-around medals.
Women’s floor exercises in the Summer Olympics
Women, as well as the men, compete on a spring floor that is 40 ft. x 40 ft. (12 x 12 m), which provides a little extra bounce when compressed, allowing gymnasts to achieve extra height and a softer landing than would be possible on a standard floor.
Floor exercises are a series of tumbling passes involving flips, jumps, handsprings, dance elements, turns, and pivots of various difficulty.
Unlike the men, the women compete with routines that are choreographed to music. Gymnasts perform up to four tumbling passes including at least one flight element without hand support. Deductions are taken for lots of little things but one of the biggest is stepping out of “bounds” or off the edge of the floor area.
Olympics vault routines for women
Both women and men gymnasts compete on the vault, but only against those of the same sex. Gymnasts sprint down a 25 m or shorter runway, before leaping onto a spring board, which they use to direct their bodies toward the vault (hands-first).
Body position is maintained while “popping” the vaulting platform. The gymnast completes multiple twists and somersaults in the air before landing on the far side of the vault. The difficulty of the flips, the strength exhibited, and the ability to stick the landing affect scoring.
Sticking the landing means landing on both feet together without taking any extra steps. Any steps or partial steps incur deductions.
Popping is blocking against the vault using only shoulder movement and stiff arms.
Summer Olympic routines on the uneven bars
The uneven bars are two horizontal bars set at different heights. The width of the bars may be adjusted for individual competitors. Gymnasts perform swinging, circling, transitional, and release moves and may pass over, under and between the two bars. Gymnasts often mount the uneven bars with a springboard.
As with most events, the dismount and that sticky landing are critical judging points. Major deductions are taken for falls, although some of the most spectacular sports moments have occurred following a major fall. You don’t forget watching an injured gymnast complete a fantastic routine only to be carried off the floor by her coach!
Olympics balance beam routines
The balance beam is a padded platform that is only 3.9 inches (10 cm) wide and 4 ft. 1 in. (125 cm) high. Gymnastics are expected to demonstrate balance (duh), poise, and flexibility while performing jaw-dropping leaps, somersaults, acrobatic, and dance moves.
Similar to floor routines, balance beam routines generally allow the gymnast to artistically express herself and incorporate dance moves.
Deductions are taken for wobbles and balance errors, falls (major deductions), and poor landings.
Rhythmic gymnastics for women only
Rhythmic gymnastics is a combination of dance and gymnastics floor exercises. The gymnasts uses props, such as ribbons, rope, hoops, balls, or clubs.
Rhythmic gymnastics, like synchronized swimming, is an event that is much more popular with Europeans and Russians than with Americans.
Women’s trampoline routines during the Olympic Games
In trampoline gymnasts do ten different tricks in each of ten bounces on a trampoline (what else?). Each bounce is called a contact. Tricks can be tucks, twists, pikes, and flips in the air while trying to keep centered on the bed.
The final landing (rather than a dismount) is actually an 11th contact. She must hold her feet for three seconds, and the bed must not be moving when she is finished.