Gymnastics is a sport that both men and women partake in, but compete in different events. The sport requires athletes to have several different physical attributes, including agility, balance, coordination, flexibility as well as physical strength.
There are several different types of gymnastics, including rhythmic, aerobic and acrobatic, gymnastics using trampolines and artistic gymnastics. Artistic gymnastics is the most common form.
The beginnings of gymnastics can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, who incorporated some early forms of the sport into their exercises. Later on, during the Roman Empire, gymnastics was used mainly for military purposes and training. After a slight decline in gymnastics interest and knowledge, two German educators, Johann Friedrich Gutsmuths and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, brought the sport back to the forefront in the early 1800s. The two created exercises based upon using apparatuses. The apparatuses that the two designed were similar to what athletes use today, and help bring about the era of modern gymnastics.
The Federation of International Gymnastics, the current governing body of gymnastics, was created in 1881. Men's gymnastics was added as an Olympic sport in 1896--the first of the modern games. The first gymnastics action women received in the Olympics was in 1928, but it only involved synchronized calisthenics. In 1954 the Olympics gymnastics competition involved all of the modern apparatuses.
The events performed at a competition vary by gender, as the women and men use different apparatuses.
Women use the floor, uneven bars, balance beam and vault.
* Balance Beam: The balance beam requires a large amount of balance and skill, as the beam is only four inches wide. The beam is just over four feet from the ground and is 16 feet long. Gymnasts perform a routine on the beam that includes several flips and leaps among other acrobatic and dance skills.
* Floor Exercise: The floor exercise is performed on a carpeted spring board that is a 12m x 12m square. The routine is choreographed, like all other events in the sport, but the floor routine incorporates music as well. Having vocals in the selected music can cause a serious loss of points in some competitions and countries. During the routine, gymnasts perform up to four different tumbling lines. One of those lines must include a tumble that does not use hand support. The floor also incorporates several dance elements, in between the tumbling.
* Uneven Bars: The uneven bars are two fiberglass bars that are set at different heights. The bars are now made of fiberglass rather than wood, as the wood bars would break much easier.
Current bars are covered in wood laminate to keep a similar appearance to the wood bars. Gymnasts can set the bars to different adjustments. The routine gymnasts perform on the uneven bars includes flipping, jumping, swinging and frequenting between the two bars between jumps and flips. The gymnasts also dismount from the bars at the end of their performance.
* Vault: In the vault the gymnasts first sprint down a runway before jumping off a spring board and then landing on the vaulting horse or table. The runway is 82 feet long. However, where a gymnast starts on the runway is not a regulated spot, as each gymnast will start at a different place, depending on how tall and strong they are. The vault has experience some recent changes, as in 2011 it was replaced with a wider--and more stable--apparatus. The changes allow the vault to be safer.
Men use the floor, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars and the high bar.
* Floor Exercise: The men also perform on the same size spring floor, but the men perform without music. The men gymnasts must also touch each corner of the floor during their routine, as well as incorporate strength skills into their performance.
* High Bar: The high bar a steer bar that is 2.4 centimeters thick and is raised 2.5 meters off of the ground. The gymnasts frequently use leather grips to help them have a better grip on the bar, as the gymnast performs several flips, twists and direction changes frequently before dismounting.
* Parallel Bars: The male gymnasts use a similar set up for the parallel bars. The bars for the men are usually 1.75 meters high.
* Pommel Horse: The pommel horse requires the gymnast to use both leg and arm work. The gymnast utilizes the whole horse while swinging both legs in a circular motion. The gymnast must also dismount from his performance, usually by landing smoothly on the floor next to the horse.
* Still Rings: The still rings are hung in the air 5.75 meters off the ground. The rings require large amount of strength and the gymnasts are to perform their routine without allowing the rings to swing. Gymnasts must also have a dismount from the rings that has a level of difficulty equal to the whole of their routine.
* Vault: The runway for the men is a maximum of 25 meters long. They also utilize the spring board to launch themselves onto the apparatus.
All gymnasts, both men and women, are scored based on their performance and the difficulty of their routine.
Perfect scores are a rarity, with the first one coming in the 1976 Olympics. Romania's Nadia Comaneci earned the first perfect score by snagging tens in all of the events. However, in 2006 the points system changed, but the deductions for mistakes are still taken from a 10.0. Now the score incorporates several different components, including a score on difficulty, execution and how the event is performed. The new scoring system utilizes the scores from the composition requirements for each apparatus and then adding them to the scores for execution.