Artistic gymnastics is a discipline of gymnastics in which athletes perform short routines (ranging from approximately 30 to 90 seconds) on different apparatuses, with less time for vaulting. The sport is governed by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), which designs the Code of Points and regulates all aspects of international elite competition.
Both male and female gymnasts are judged on all events for execution, degree of difficulty, and overall presentation skills.
- The vault is an event as well as the primary piece of equipment used in that event. Unlike most of the gymnastic events employing apparatuses, the vault is common to both men’s and women’s competition, with little difference between the two categories. A gymnast sprints down a runway, which is a maximum of 25 m (82 ft) in length, before leaping onto a springboard. Harnessing the energy of the spring, the gymnast directs his or her body hands-first towards the vault. Body position is maintained while “popping” (blocking using only a shoulder movement) the vaulting platform. The gymnast then rotates his or her body so as to land in a standing position on the far side of the vault. 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, kinesthetic awareness in the air, and the speed of rotation in the case of more difficult and complex vaults.
- In 2001, the traditional vaulting horse was replaced with a new apparatus, sometimes known as a tongue or table. It is more stable, wider, and longer than the older vaulting horse—approximately 1 m (3.3 ft) in length and width—giving gymnasts a larger blocking surface, and is therefore safer than the old vaulting horse. With the addition of this new and safer apparatus, gymnasts are attempting more difficult and dangerous vaults.
- Floor exercise
- The floor event occurs on a carpeted 12 m × 12 m (39 ft × 39 ft) square, called a “spring floor”, consisting of hard foam over a layer of plywood, which is supported by springs or foam blocks. 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. A series of tumbling passes are performed to demonstrate flexibility, strength, balance, and power. The gymnast must also show non-acrobatic skills, including circles, scales, and press handstands. Men’s floor routines usually have multiple passes that will total from 60 to 70 seconds, and men perform without music (unlike women gymnasts). Rules require that gymnasts touch each corner of the floor at least once during their routine. Female gymnasts perform a 90-second choreographed routine to instrumental music on the same spring floor used by male gymnasts. Female routines consist of tumbling passes, a series of jumps, several dance elements, acrobatic skill elements, and turns. Elite gymnasts may perform up to four tumbling passes, each of which includes three or more skills.
- 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 (flairs). Routines end when the gymnast performs a dismount, either by swinging his body over the horse, or landing after a handstand.
- Still rings
- The still rings are suspended on wire cable from a point 5.8 m (19 ft) 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. Most routines begin with a difficult mount and conclude with a difficult dismount.
- Parallel bars
- Men perform on two bars slightly further than a shoulder’s width apart and usually 1.75 m (5.7 ft) high while executing a series of swings, balances, and releases that require great strength and coordination.
- Horizontal bar or High bar
- A 2.4 cm (0.94 in) thick steel bar raised 2.5 m (8.2 ft) 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 the momentum from giants, 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.
- Uneven bars
- On the uneven bars (also known as asymmetric bars ), the gymnast navigates two horizontal bars set at different preset heights yet alterable widths. Gymnasts perform swinging, circling, transitional, and release moves, as well as moves that pass through the handstand. The most common way to mount these bars is by jumping towards the lower bar first.
- Higher-level gymnasts usually wear leather grips to ensure a grip is maintained on the bars while protecting hands from painful blisters and tears (known as rips). Gymnasts sometimes wet their grips with water from a spray bottle and then may apply chalk to their grips to prevent the hands from slipping. Chalk may also be applied to the hands and bar if grips are not worn.
- Balance beam
- The gymnast performs a choreographed routine from 70 to 90 seconds in length consisting of leaps, acrobatic skills, turns and dance elements on a padded spring beam. Apparatus norms set by the International Gymnastics Federation (used for Olympic and most elite competitions) specify the beam must be 125 cm (4 ft) high, 500 cm (16 ft) long, and 10 cm (3.9 in) wide.The event requires balance, flexibility and strength.