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Gymnastics is an activity and a sport involving performance of exercises requiring physical strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, balance and grace. Artistic gymnastics is the best known of the gymnastics sports governed by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG). Artistic Gymnastics, typically involves the women's events of uneven parallel bars, balance beam, floor exercise, and vault. Men's events include floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar. Gymnastics evolved from exercises used by the ancient Greeks, that included skills for mounting and dismounting a horse, and from circus performance skills.

Other forms of gymnastics are rhythmic gymnastics, various trampolining sports, and aerobic and acrobatic gymnastics.

The activity can include children as young as three years old and sometimes younger doing kindergym and children's gymnastics, recreational gymnasts of all ages, competitive gymnasts at varying levels of skill, as well as world class athletes.

Etymology

The word derives from the Greek γυμναστική (gymnastike), fem. of γυμναστικός (gymnastikos), "fond of athletic exercises", from γυμνάσια (gymnasia), "exercise" and that from γυμνός (gymnos), "naked", because athletes exercised and competed in the nude.

History

To the Ancient Greeks, physical fitness was paramount, and all Greek cities had a gymnasium, a courtyard for jumping, running, and wrestling. As the Roman Empire ascended, Greek gymnastics gave way to military training. The Romans, for example, introduced the wooden horse. In 393 AD the Emperor Theodosius abolished the Olympic Games, which by then had become corrupt, and gymnastics, along with other sports, declined. Later, Christianity, with its medieval belief in the base nature of the human body, had a deleterious effect on gymnastics. For centuries, gymnastics was all but forgotten.

In the fifteenth century, Girolamo Mercuriale from Forlìmarker (Italymarker) wrote De Arte Gymnastica, where he brought his studies of the attitudes of the ancients toward diet, exercise and hygiene, and the use of natural methods for the cure of disease. With its explanations concerning the principles of physical therapy, De Arte Gymnastica is considered the first book on sports medicine.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, two pioneer physical educators – Johann Friedrich GutsMuths (1759–1839) and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778–1852) – created exercises for boys and young men on apparatus they designed that ultimately led to what is considered modern gymnastics. In particular, Jahn crafted early models of the horizontal bar, the parallel bars (from a horizontal ladder with the rungs removed), and the vaulting horse.

The International Federation of Gymnastics was founded in Liege in 1881. By the end of the nineteenth century, men's gymnastics competition was popular enough to be included in the first "modern" Olympic Games in 1896. However, from then on until the early 1950s, both national and international competitions involved a changing variety of exercises gathered under the rubric gymnastics that would seem strange to today's audiences: synchronized team floor calisthenics, rope climbing, high jumping, running, horizontal ladder, etc. During the 1920s, women organized and participated in gymnastics events, and the first women's Olympic competition – primitive, for it involved only synchronized calisthenics – was held at the 1928 Games in Amsterdam.

By 1954, Olympic Games apparatus and events for both men and women had been standardized in modern format, and uniform grading structures (including a point system from 1 to 15) had been agreed upon. At this time, Sovietmarker gymnasts astounded the world with highly disciplined and difficult performances, setting a precedent that continues to inspire. The new medium of television helped publicize and initiate a modern age of gymnastics. Both men's and women's gymnastics now attract considerable international interest, and excellent gymnasts can be found on every continent. Nadia Comaneci received the first perfect score, at the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montrealmarker, Canadamarker. She was coached in Romania by the Romanian coach, (Hungarian ethnicity), Béla Károlyi. According to Sports Illustrated, Comaneci scored four of her perfect tens on the uneven bars, two on the balance beam and one in the floor exercise. Even with Nadia's perfect scores, however, the Romanians lost the gold medal to the Sovietsmarker. Nevertheless, Comaneci became an Olympic icon.

In 2006, a new points system for Artistic gymnastics was put into play. With an A Score (or D score) being the difficulty score, which as of 2009 is based on the top 8 high scoring elements in a routine(besides Vault) and then the B Score (or E Score) which would be the execution score, how well they performed the skills.

Forms

Artistic gymnastics

Gymnastics is among the most physically straining and difficult sports in the athletic world. Artistic gymnastics is usually divided into Men's and Women's Gymnastics. Each group does different events; Men compete on Floor Exercise, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars, and High Bar, while women compete on Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise. In some countries, women at one time competed on the rings, high bar, and parallel bars (for example, in the 1950s in the USSRmarker). Though routines performed on each event may be short, they are physically exhausting and push the gymnast's strength, flexibility, endurance and awareness to the limit.

Traditionally, at the international level, the gymnast performed routines that he or she choreographed. Nowadays, each country may use compulsory and optional routines at their discretion in the training of young gymnasts.

In 2006, a new points system for Artistic gymnastics was introduced, abolishing the perfect ten.

Women's events

Piked Tsukahara vault.
Vault: In the vaulting events gymnasts: sprint down a 25 meter (about 82 feet) runway, jump onto a beatboard or springboard (run/ take-off segment), land momentarily generally inverted on the hands on the vaulting horse or vaulting table (pre flight segment), then spring off of this platform to a two footed landing (post flight segment). The post flight segment may include one or more multiple saltos or somersaults, and/or twisting movements. However, round-off entry vaults are the most common of all vaults, where the gymnast sprints down the runway and does a round-off so the feet land on the springboard. She would then do a backhandspring so that the hands land on the vaulting platform (horse), and then block off to various twisting and somersaulting combinations. The post flight segment brings the gymnast to her feet.


In 2001, the traditional vaulting horse was replaced with a new apparatus, sometimes known as a tongue or table. The new apparatus is more stable, wider, and longer than the older vaulting horse—approximately 1m in length and 1m in width—gives gymnasts a larger blocking surface, and is therefore safer than the old vaulting horse. With the addition of this new, safer vaulting table, gymnasts are attempting more difficult and dangerous vaults.


Gymnast on uneven bars.
Uneven Bars: On the uneven bars (also known as asymmetric bars, UKmarker), the gymnast performed a routine on two horizontal bars set at different heights. These bars are made of fiberglass covered in wood, to prevent them from breaking. Bars used to be made of only wood, but the bars would snap often, thus providing a reason to switch to newer technologies. The width may be adjusted. Gymnasts perform swinging, circling, transitional, and release moves, that may pass over, under, and between the two bars. Movements may pass through the handstand. Gymnasts often mount the Uneven Bars using a springboard.


Balance Beam: The gymnast performs a choreographed routine up to 90 seconds in length consisting of leaps, acrobatic skills, somersaults, turns and dance elements on a padded sprung beam. The beam is from the ground, long, and wide. The event requires in particular, balance, flexibility and strength.


Gymnast doing a stag ring leap on floor exercise.
Floor:Years ago, floor exercise was executed on wrestling mats. However,the floor event occurs on a carpeted 12m × 12m square, usually consisting of hard foam over a layer of plywood, which is supported by springs or foam blocks generally called a "spring" floor. This provides a firm surface that will respond with force when compressed, allowing gymnasts to achieve extra height and a softer landing than would be possible on a regular floor, which used to cause many ankle injuries. Gymnasts perform a choreographed routine up to 90 seconds long. They can choose an accompanying music piece, which must be instrumental and cannot include vocals. The routine should consist of tumbling lines, series of jumps, dance elements, acrobatic skills, and turns, or piviots, on one foot. A gymnast can perform up to four tumbling lines that include at least one flight element without hand support.


Scoring:
A gymnasts score comes from deductions taken from their start value. The start value of a routine is calculated based on the difficulty of the elements the gymnast attempts and whether or not the gymnast meets composition requirements. The composition requirements are different for each apparatus. This score is called the D score. Deductions in execution and artistry are taken from 10.0. This score is called the E score. The final score is calculated by taking deductions from the E score, and adding the result to the D score.

Men's events

Floor Exercise: Male gymnasts also perform on a 12m. by 12m. spring floor. A series of tumbling passes are performed to demonstrate flexibility, strength, and balance. The gymnast must also show strength skills, including circles, scales, and press handstands. Men's floor routines usually have four passes that will total between 60–70 seconds and are performed without music, unlike the women's event. Rules require that gymnasts touch each corner of the floor at least once during their routine.


Pommel Horse: A typical pommel horse exercise involves both single leg and double leg work. Single leg skills are generally found in the form of scissors, an element often done on the pommels. Double leg work however, is the main staple of this event. The gymnast swings both legs in a circular motion (clockwise or counterclockwise depending on preference) and performs such skills on all parts of the apparatus. To make the exercise more challenging, gymnasts will often include variations on a typical circling skill by turning (moores and spindles) or by straddling their legs (Flares). Routines end when the gymnast performs a dismount, either by swinging his body over the horse, or landing after a handstand.


Still Rings: Still Rings is arguably the most physically demanding event. The rings are suspended on wire cable from a point 5.75 meters off the floor, and adjusted in height so the gymnast has room to hang freely and swing. He must perform a routine demonstrating balance, strength, power, and dynamic motion while preventing the rings themselves from swinging. At least one static strength move is required, but some gymnasts may include two or three. A routine should have a dismount equal in difficulty to the difficulty of the routine as a whole.


Vault: Gymnasts sprint down a runway, which is a maximum of 25 meters in length, before hurdling onto a spring board. The body position is maintained while "punching" (blocking using only a shoulder movement) the vaulting platform. The gymnast then rotates to a standing position. In advanced gymnastics, multiple twists and somersaults may be added before landing. Successful vaults depend on the speed of the run, the length of the hurdle, the power the gymnast generates from the legs and shoulder girdle, the kinesthetic awareness in the air, and the speed of rotation in the case of more difficult and complex vaults.


Parallel Bars: Men perform on two bars slightly further than a shoulder's width apart and usually 1.75m high while executing a series of swings, balances, and releases that require great strength and coordination.


High Bar: A 2.4 cm thick steel bar raised 2.5m above the landing area is all the gymnast has to hold onto as he performs giants (revolutions around the bar), release skills, twists, and changes of direction. By using all of the momentum from giants and then releasing at the proper point, enough height can be achieved for spectacular dismounts, such as a triple-back salto. Leather grips are usually used to help maintain a grip on the bar.


As with the women, male gymnasts are also judged on all of their events, for their execution, degree of difficulty, and overall presentation skills.

Rhythmic gymnastics

Only women compete in rhythmic gymnastics although there is a new version of this discipline for men being pioneered in Japanmarker, see Men's rhythmic gymnastics. The sport involves the performance of five separate routines with the use of five apparatus—ball, ribbon, hoop, clubs, rope—on a floor area, with a much greater emphasis on the aesthetic rather than the acrobatic. There are also group routines consisting of 5 gymnasts and 5 apparatuses of their choice. Rhythmic routines are scored out of a possible 20 points; the score for Artistry (choreography and music) is averaged with the score for Difficulty of the moves and then added to the score for Execution.

Trampolining and Tumbling

Double Mini-trampoline competitor


Trampolining and tumbling consists of four events, individual, synchronized, double mini and power tumbling. Since 2000 individual trampoline has been included in the Olympic Games. Individual routines in trampolining involve a build-up phase during which the gymnast jumps repeatedly to achieve height, followed by a sequence of ten leaps without pauses during which the gymnast performs a sequence of aerial skills. Routines are marked out of a maximum score of 10 points. Additional points (with no maximum at the highest levels of competition) can be earned depending on the difficulty of the moves. In high level competitions, there are two preliminary routines, one which has only two moves scored for difficulty and one where the athlete is free to perform any routine. This is followed by a final routine which is optional. Some competitions restart the score from zero for the finals, other add the final score to the preliminary results.Synchronized trampoline is similar except that both competitors must perform the routine together and marks are awarded for synchronicity as well as the form and difficulty of the moves.Double mini trampoline involves a smaller trampoline with a run-up, two moves are performed for preliminaries and two more for finals. Moves cannot be repeated and the scores are marked in a similar manner to individual trampoline. In power tumbling, athletes perform an explosive series of flips and twists down a sprung tumbling track. Scoring is similar to trampolining.

Display gymnastics

General gymnastics enables people of all ages and abilities to participate in performance groups of 6 to more than 150 athletes. They perform synchronized, choreographed routines. Troupes may be all one gender or mixed. There are no age divisions in general gymnastics. The largest general gymnastics exhibition is the quadrennial World Gymnaestrada which was first held in 1939.

Aerobic gymnastics

Aerobic gymnastics (formally Sport Aerobics) involves the performance of routines by individuals, pairs, trios or groups up to 6 people, emphasizing strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness rather than acrobatic or balance skills. Routines are performed for all individuals on a 7x7m floor and also for 12-14 and 15-17 trios and mixed pairs. However from 2009 all senior trios and mixed pairs must be on the larger floor 10x10m, all groups are also on this floor.Routines generally last 60–90 seconds depending on age of participant and routine category.

Acrobatic Gymnastics

Acrobatic gymnastics (formerly Sports Acrobatics), often referred to as acrobatics, "acro" sports or simply sports acro, is a group gymnastic discipline for both men and women. Acrobats in groups of two, three and four perform routines with the heads, hands and feet of their partners. They may, subject to regulations (e.g. no lyrics), pick their own music.

There are the beginning recreational levels of 1,2, and 3(which require one routine containing both dynamic and balance skills). Then there are the cumpulsory levels of 4, 5, 6, and 7(which also only require one routine). When you get to the levels of 8, 9, two routines are required - one for balance and one for dynamic. Once you get to the optional levels of 10, and elite, three routines are required - one for balance, one for dynamic, and one combined routine.

TeamGym

TeamGym originated in Scandinavia, and as a major gymnastics event has been popular for 20 years. A team in this sport can have from 6 to 12 members, either all male, all female or a mixed squad. The team shows three disciplines, Trampette, Tumbling and Floor. All events require strong technical, acrobatic and teamwork skills. Team Gym is popular as a spectator sport.

Floor Programme: All members of the Team take part here. It is a mixture of Dance, flexibility and skill. The routine has to be skillfully choreographed and the judges look out for changes in shape. There needs to be at least two spins, two balances and two section elements. These section elememts are bodywaves for women's teams, power elements for mens' teams and lifts for mixed teams. Floor routines are performed to music.


Trampette: Here a trampette is used. There are two components of this; Vault and the Trampette on its own. There has to be three runs in total. At least one of these runs has to be a vault run. Another run has to include all the gymnasts doing the same move. This is generally the first run. This is also performed to music.


Tumbling: Again, here there are three runs (rounds) involved. One of which has to include all six gymnasts doing a forwards series. Another run also has to include the gymnasts completing the same move. Each series must have at least three different acrobatic elements.


Former apparatus & events

Rope Climb

Generally, competitors climbed either a 6m (6.1m = 20 ft in USA) or an 8m (7.6m = 25 ft in USA), 38mm (1.5") diameter natural fiber rope for speed, starting from a seated position on the floor and using only the hands and arms. Kicking the legs in a kind of "stride" was normally permitted. Many gymnasts can do this in the straddle or pike position, which eliminates the help generated from the legs.

Flying Rings

Flying Rings was an event similar to Still Rings, but with the performer executing a series of stunts while swinging. It was a gymnastic event sanctioned by both the NCAA and the AAU until the early 1960s.

Cautions

Gymnastics is considered to be a dangerous sport, due in part to the height of the apparatus, the speed of the exercises and the impact on competitors' joints, bones and muscles. In several cases, competitors have suffered serious, lasting injuries and paralysis after severe gymnastics-related accidents. For instance, in 1998, at the Goodwill Games, world-class Chinese artistic gymnast Sang Lan was paralyzed after falling on vault.

Artistic gymnastics injuries have been the subject of several international medical studies, and results have indicated that more than half of all elite-level participants may eventually develop chronic injuries. In the United States, injury rates range from a high 56% for high school gymnasts to 23% for club gymnasts. However, the rates for participants in recreational or lower-level gymnastics are lower than that of high-level competitors. Conditioning, secure training environments with appropriate landing surfaces, and knowledgeable coaching can also lessen the frequency or occurrence of injuries.

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