Artistic gymnastics

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Artistic gymnastics
Highest governing body Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique
Registered players 1881
Characteristics
Mixed gender Yes
Type Indoor
Presence
Olympic Since the first ever Summer Olympics in 1896

Artistic gymnastics is a discipline of gymnastics where gymnasts perform short routines (ranging from approximately 30 to 90 seconds) on different apparatus, with less time for vaulting (see lists below). The sport is governed by the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), which designs the Code of Points and regulates all aspects of international elite competition. Within individual countries, gymnastics is regulated by national federations, such as BAGA in Great Britain and USA Gymnastics in the United States. Artistic gymnastics is a popular spectator sport at the Summer Olympic Games and in numerous other competitive environments.

History[edit]

A gymnast at the parallel bars (1962).

Gymnastics has been around for quite a while. The system was mentioned in works by ancient authors, such as Homer, Aristotle and Plato. It included many disciplines, which would later become separate sports: swimming, race, wrestling, boxing, riding, etc.[1] and was also used for military training. In its present form gymnastics evolved in Germany and Bohemia in the beginning of the 19th century, and the term "artistic gymnastics" was introduced at the same time to distinguish free styles from the ones used by the military.[2] A German educator Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, who was known as the father of gymnastics,[3] invented several apparatus, including the horizontal bar and parallel bars which are used to this day. Two of the first gymnastics clubs were Turnvereins and Sokols.

In 1881 the International Gymnastics Federation was founded and remains the governing body of international gymnastics since then. It included only three countries and was called European Gymnastics Federation until 1921, when the first non-European countries joined the federation, and it was reorganized into its present form. Gymnastics was included into the program of the 1896 Summer Olympics, but women were allowed to participate in the Olympics only since 1928. World Championships, held since 1903 also remained for men only until 1934. Since that time two branches of artistic gymnastics have been developing—WAG and MAG—which, unlike men's and women's branches of many other sports, are much different in apparatus used at the major competitions, in techniques and concerns.

Women's artistic gymnastics (WAG)[edit]

Women's artistic gymnastics entered the Olympics as a team event in 1928. At the twelfth (12th) gymnastics World Championships in 1950, WAG (as it is known today) was included. WAG introduced team competition, all-around and apparatus final events. Individual women were recognized in the all-around as early as the tenth (10th) World Championships in 1934. Two years after the full women's program (all-around and all four event finals) was introduced into the 1950 World Championships, it was introduced into the 1952 Helsinki Games, and this format has remained as such to this day.

The earliest champions in women's gymnastics tended to be in their 20s; most had studied ballet for years before entering the sport. Larisa Latynina, the first great Soviet gymnast, won her first Olympic all-around medal at the age of 22 and her second at 26; she became the 1958 World Champion while pregnant with her daughter. Czech gymnast Věra Čáslavská, who followed Latynina to become a two-time Olympic all around champion, was 22 before she started winning gold medals.

In the 1970s, the average age of Olympic gymnastics competitors began to decrease. While it was not unheard of for teenagers to compete in the 1960s—Ludmilla Tourischeva was sixteen at her first Olympics in 1968—younger female gymnasts slowly became the norm while the sport's difficulty increased. Smaller, lighter girls generally excelled in the more challenging acrobatic elements required by the redesigned Code of Points. The 58th Congress of the FIG, held in July 1980 just before the Olympics, decided to raise the minimum age limit for major international senior competition from fourteen to fifteen.[4] The change, which came into effect two years later, did not eliminate the problem. By the time the 1992 Olympics rolled around, elite competitors consisted almost exclusively of "pixies"—underweight, prepubertal teenagers—and concerns were raised about athlete welfare.

The FIG responded to this trend by raising the minimum age requirement for international elite competition to sixteen in 1997. This, combined with changes in the Code of Points and evolving popular opinion in the sport, have seen older gymnasts return to competition. While the average elite female gymnast is still in her middle to late teens and of below-average height and weight, it is also common to see gymnasts competing well into their twenties. At the 2004 Olympics, both the second place American team and the third placed Russians were captained by women in their mid twenties; several other teams, including Australia, France and Canada, had many older gymnasts. At the 2008 Olympics, the silver medalist on vault, Oksana Chusovitina, was a 33-year-old mother. She received another silver medal on vault at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo when she was 36.

Apparatus[edit]

Both male and female gymnasts are judged on all events for execution, degree of difficulty, and overall presentation skills.

Diego Hypólito vaulting from a modern vaulting table during the 2007 Pan American Games.
Vault
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 meters in length, before leaping onto a spring board. Harnessing the explosive 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, the 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. The new apparatus is more stable, wider, and longer than the older vaulting horse—approx. 1 m in length and 1 m in width, gives 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 12m × 12m (40' × 40') square, called a "spring floor," which consists 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 is 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 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 70-90 second long choreographed routine to instrumental (no vocals allowed) 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 that include three or more skills or "tricks".

Men's only[edit]

Alberto Braglia won the gold medal in gymnastics at the 1908 and 1912 Olympics.
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 5.8 meters off the floor,[5] 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 must begin with an impressive mount and must conclude with an equally impressive dismount.
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 2.5 m 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.
Nastia Liukin on the balance beam.
The Gymnast sculpture in Wingate Institute, Israel

Women's only[edit]

Uneven bars
On the uneven bars (also known as asymmetric bars, UK), the gymnast navigates two horizontal bars set at different pre-set 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/or 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') high, 500 cm (16') long, and 10 cm (3.9") wide.[6] The event requires spectacular balance, flexibility and strength.

Equipment and uniforms[edit]

Format of competition[edit]

Currently, in Olympic or World Championships competition, the meet is divided into several sessions which occur on different days: team qualifying, team finals, all-around finals and event finals.

During the team qualifying (abbreviated TQ) round, gymnasts compete with their national squad on all four (WAG) or six (MAG) apparatus. The scores from this session are not used to award medals, but are used to determine which teams advance to the team finals and which individual gymnasts advance to the all-around and event finals. The current format of this session is 5-4-3, meaning that there are five gymnasts on the team, four compete on each event, and three of the scores count.

In the team finals (abbreviated TF), gymnasts compete with their national squad on all four/six apparatus. The scores from the session are used to determine the medalists of the team competition. The current format is 5-3-3, meaning that there are five gymnasts on the team, three compete on each event, and all three scores count.

In the all-around finals (abbreviated AA), the gymnasts are individual competitors and perform on all four/six apparatus. Their scores from all four/six events are added together and the gymnasts with the three highest totals are awarded all-around medals. Only two gymnasts from each country may advance to the all-around finals.

In the event finals (abbreviated EF) or apparatus finals, the top eight gymnasts on each event compete for medals. Only two gymnasts from each country may advance to each EF.

Other competitions are not bound by these rules, and may use other formats. For instance, the 2007 Pan American Games had only one day of team competition on a 6-5-4 format, and allowed three athletes from each country to advance to the all-around. In other meets, such as those on the World Cup circuit, the team event is not contested at all.

New Life[edit]

Competitions use the New Life scoring rule, which was introduced in 1989. Under New Life, marks from one session do not carry over to the next. In other words, a gymnast's performance in team finals does not affect his or her scores in the all-around finals or event finals; he or she starts with a clean slate. In addition, the marks from the team qualifying round do not count toward the team finals.

Before the introduction of the New Life rule, the scores from the team competition carried over into the all-around and event finals, and could have a negative or positive effect on the gymnast's efforts in subsequent sessions. The gymnasts' final results, and medal placement were previously determined by the combination of the following scores:

  • Qualifiers for all-around and event finals: Team compulsories + team optionals
  • Team competition: Team compulsories + team optionals
  • All-around competition: Team results (compulsories and optionals) averaged + all-around
  • Event finals: Team results (compulsories and optionals) averaged + event final

Compulsories[edit]

Before 1997, the team competition was structured differently. It still consisted of two sessions. However, gymnasts performed compulsory exercises in the preliminaries and their optional routines on the second day. The team medals were awarded on the combined scores of both days. All-around and event final qualifiers were also determined according to the combined scores. In meets where team titles were not contested, such as the American Cup, there were two days of all-around competition: one for compulsories and one for optionals.

The optionals were the gymnasts' personal routines, developed with their coaches to adhere to the requirements of the Code of Points. They were performed in the team finals, the all-around and the event finals.

The compulsories were routines that were developed and choreographed by the FIG Technical Committee. They were performed on the first day of the team competition. Every single elite gymnast in every single FIG member nation performed the same exercises. The dance and tumbling skills of compulsory routines were generally less difficult than those of the optionals, but heavily emphasized perfect technique, form and execution. Scoring was exacting, with judges taking deductions for even slight deviations from the required choreography. For this reason, many gymnasts and coaches considered compulsories more challenging to perform than optionals.

Compulsories were eliminated at the end of 1996. The move was extremely controversial, and many successful gymnastics federations, including Russia, the United States and China, voted against the abolition of compulsories. They argued that the exercises helped maintain a high standard of form, technique and execution among gymnasts. Opponents believed that compulsories harmed emerging gymnastics programs. Many members of the gymnastics community still argue that compulsories should be reinstated.

Many gymnastics federations have maintained compulsories in their national programs. Gymnasts competing at the lower levels of the sport—for instance, Level 4–6 in USA Gymnastics and Grade 2 in South Africa—frequently only perform compulsory routines.

Competition levels[edit]

Artistic gymnasts compete only with other gymnasts in their level or grade. Gymnasts start at the lowest level of competition and advance to higher levels or grades by learning gymnastics skills and achieving qualifying scores at meets.

In America, levels range from 1 to 10, then junior elite and senior elite. Elite, especially senior elite is considered Olympic level, and these gymnasts generally perform routines designed to meet the FIG's international Code of Points. Levels 1–3 are usually considered recreational, or beginner; 4–7 intermediate, and 8–Elite advanced. Competitions begin at level 4 and in some gyms, level 3. A gymnast must have specific skills for each event in order to advance to the next level and once a gymnast has competed in a Sectional meet, they may not drop back to a lower level in the same competitive season. Levels 1–3 are basic skills, such as handstands, cartwheels, etc. 4–6 are compulsory levels, and 7 is an in-between level, with strict requirements but still allowing the gymnast to add in their own creativity.

In the UK, the levels system goes from 5 (lowest) to 2; there are also two tracks for Elite and Club level competition. In Canada there are several different competitive streams: Recreational, Developmental, Pre-Competitive, Provincial, National and High Performance. Provincial levels range from 5 (lowest) to 1; National levels are Pre-Novice, Novice, Open, and High Performance. High Performance levels are Novice, Junior and Senior.

Age limits[edit]

The FIG imposes a minimum age limit on gymnasts competing in international meets. The term senior, in gymnastics, refers to any world-class or elite gymnast who is age-eligible under FIG rules. The term junior refers to any gymnast who competes at a world-class or elite level, but is too young to be classified as a senior. Currently, gymnasts must be at least sixteen years of age, or turning sixteen within the calendar year, to be classified as a senior. Juniors are not judged under the same Code of Points as the seniors,[clarification needed] but often exhibit the same level of difficulty in their routines.

Many meets, such as the European Championships, have separate divisions for juniors, but some competitions, such as the Goodwill Games, the Pan Am Games, the Pacific Rim Championships and the All-Africa Games, have rules that permit seniors and juniors to compete together.

Only senior gymnasts are allowed to compete in the Olympics, World Championships and World Cup circuit. For the current Olympic cycle, in order to compete in the 2016 Olympics, a gymnast must have a birthdate before January 1, 2001 (corresponding to an age of at least 15 years and 8 months on the first day of the games). There is no maximum age restriction.

The minimum age requirement is arguably one of the most contentious rules in artistic gymnastics, and is frequently debated by coaches, gymnasts and other members of the gymnastics community. Those in favor of the age limits[who?] argue that they promote the participation of older athletes in the sport, and that they spare younger gymnasts from the stress of competition and training at a high level. Opponents of the rule point out that junior gymnasts are scored under the same Code of Points as the seniors,[clarification needed] and train mostly the same skills. They also feel that younger gymnasts need the experience of participating in major meets in order to become better athletes; and that if a junior has the skills and maturity to be competitive with seniors, he or she should be allowed that opportunity.

Another point that frequently arises[citation needed] in this debate is the issue of age falsification. Since stricter age limit rules were first adopted in the early 1980s, there have been several well-documented, and many more suspected, cases of juniors with falsified documents competing as seniors. The FIG has only taken disciplinary action in three cases: those of Kim Gwang-Suk of North Korea, who competed at the 1989 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships at the approximate age of eleven; North Korean Hong Un-Jong, who competed under three different birth dates in the 2000s, and China's Dong Fangxiao, who competed at the 2000 Olympics when she was two years below the age minimum.

While the minimum age requirement applies to both women and men, it is far more contentious in the women's program.[citation needed] Most top male gymnasts are in their late teens or early twenties, while female gymnasts are typically ready to compete at the international level by their mid-teens. The difference is largely due to the fact that the men's skills tend to emphasize strength more than the women's skills.

Scoring and the Code of Points[edit]

Scoring at the international level is regulated by the Code of Points. This system was significantly overhauled for 2006. Under the new Code of Points, there are two different panels judging each routine, evaluating different aspects of the performance. The A score covers Difficulty Value, Element Group Requirements and Connection Value; the B score covers execution, composition and artistry. The most visible change to the Code was the abandonment of the "Perfect 10" for an open-ended scoring system for difficulty (the A score). The B score is still limited to a maximum of 10. The sum of the two provides a gymnast's total score for the routine. Theoretically this means scores could be infinite, although average marks for routines in major competitions in 2006 generally stayed in the mid-teens.

Many gymnasts, including Nadia Comăneci, Mary Lou Retton, Josef Stalder, and Kurt Thomas, have attributed their original skills to the Table of Elements section of the Code that helps define a routine's difficulty.

Before 2006, every routine was assigned a Start Value (SV). A routine with maximum SV performed perfectly was worth a 10.0. A routine with all required elements was automatically given a base SV (9.4 in 1996; 9.0 in 1997; 8.8 in 2001).Iit was up to the gymnast to increase the SV to 10.0 by performing difficult skills and combinations.

Many gymnastics insiders, coaches, officials and gymnasts have protested the new Code, with Olympic gold medalists Lilia Podkopayeva, Svetlana Boguinskaya, Shannon Miller and Vitaly Scherbo and Romanian team coach Nicolae Forminte publicly voicing their opposition. In addition, the 2006 report from the FIG Athletes' Commission cited major concerns about scoring, judging and other points of the new Code. Aspects of the Code were revised in 2007; however, there are no plans to abandon the new scoring system and return to the 10.0 format.

Major competitions[edit]

Global[edit]

  • Olympic Games: Artistic gymnastics is one of the most popular events at the Summer Olympics, held every four years. Gymnastics teams qualify for the Olympics based on their performance at the World Championships the year before the Games. Nations that do not qualify to send a full team may qualify to send one or two individual gymnasts.
  • World Championships: The gymnastics-only World Championships is open to teams from every FIG-member nation. The competition has had several different formats, depending on the year: full team finals, all-around, and event finals; all-around and event finals only; or event finals only.
  • Artistic Gymnastics World Cup
  • Goodwill Games: Artistic gymnastics was an event at this now-defunct competition.
  • World Games

Regional[edit]

  • All-Africa Games: Gymnastics is one of the events in this multi-sport competition, held every four years, and open to teams and gymnasts from African nations.
  • Asian Games: Artistic gymnastics is one of the events in this multi-sport competition, held every four years, and open to teams and gymnasts from Asian nations.
  • Commonwealth Games: Artistic gymnastics is one of the events in this multi-sport competition, held every four years, and open to teams and gymnasts from Commonwealth nations.
  • European Championships: The gymnastics-only European Championships is held every year, and is open to teams and gymnasts from European nations.
  • Pacific Rim Championships: This gymnastics-only competition, which was known as the Pacific Alliance Championships until 2008, is held every two years and is open to teams from members of the Pacific Alliance of National Gymnastics Federations, including the USA, China, Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and other nations on the Pacific coast.
  • Pan American Games: Gymnastics is one of the events in this multi-sport competition, held every four years, and open to teams and gymnasts from North, South and Central America.
  • South American Games: Artistic gymnastics is one of the events in this multi-sport competition, held every four years, and open to teams and gymnasts from South American nations.

National[edit]

Most countries hold a major competition (National Championships, or "Nationals") every year that determines the best-performing all-around gymnasts and event specialists in their country. Gymnasts may also qualify to their country's national team or be selected for international meets based on their scores at Nationals.

Dominant teams and nations[edit]

USSR / Post-Soviet Republics[edit]

USSR/The Unified Team/Russia/Ukraine/Belarus/Armenia: Before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Soviet gymnasts dominated both men's and women's gymnastics commencing with the introduction of the full women's program into the Olympics and the overall increased standardization of the Olympic Gymnastics competition format which happened in 1952. They had many male stars such as Olympic All-Around Champions Viktor Chukarin and Vitaly Scherbo and female stars such as Olympic All-Around Champion Larisa Latynina and World-All Around and Olympic Champion Svetlana Boguinskaya who contributed to this tradition. From 1952 to 1992 inclusive, the Soviet women's squad won almost every single team title in World Championship competition and at the Summer Olympics: the only four exceptions were the 1984 Olympics, which they did not attend, and the 1966, 1979 and 1987 World Championships. Most of the famous Soviet gymnasts were from the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and the Byelorussian SSR. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, they competed together as one nation for the last time at the 1992 Summer Olympics as a "Unified Team" winning the gold. Russia has maintained the tradition of gymnastics excellence, medalling at every Worlds and Olympic competition in both MAG and WAG disciplines, except in the 2008 Olympics, where the Russian women team did not win any medals. Ukraine also has a strong team; Ukrainian Lilia Podkopayeva was the all-around champion at the 1996 Olympics. Belarus has maintained a strong men's team. Other former republics have been somewhat less successful. In terms of medal results and overall domination, the Soviet legacy remains the strongest of all in Artistic Gymnastics.

Romania[edit]

Romania: The Romanian team first achieved wide-scale success at the 1976 Summer Olympics with the tremendous success of Nadia Comăneci. Since then, using the centralized training system pioneered by Béla Károlyi, they have been a dominant force in both team and individual events in WAG. With the exception of the defeat of the Soviet women's team by the Czechoslovakian women's team at the 1966 World Championships, Romania was the only team ever to defeat the Soviets in head to head competition at the World Championships/Olympic level with their victories at the 1979 and 1987 Worlds. Their women's teams have also won team medals at every Olympics from 1976 to 2012 inclusive, including 3 victories in 1984, 2000, and 2004. At the 16 different World Championships from 1978 to 2007 inclusive, the women's team has failed to medal only twice (in 1981 and 2011), and has won the team title seven times including 5 victories in a row (1994–2001). With the exception of the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics, they have placed notable gymnasts such as Daniela Silivaş, Lavinia Miloşovici, and Simona Amânar on the Olympic All-Around podium at every Olympics since Comaneci's success in 1976, and have usually done the same for the individual events at the World Championships, producing World All-Around Champions Aurelia Dobre and Maria Olaru. The Romanian men's program, while less successful, is still maturing, and producing individual medalists such as Marian Drăgulescu and Marius Urzică. At World and Olympic competitions and they have started winning team medals, as well.

United States[edit]

United States: While isolated American gymnasts, including Kurt Thomas and Cathy Rigby, won medals in World Championship meets in the 1970s, the United States team was largely considered a "second power" until the mid to late 1980s, when American gymnasts began medaling consistently in major, fully attended competitions. In 1984 the Olympic men's team won the gold. The team included Tim Daggett, Peter Vidmar, Mitch Gaylord, Bart Conner, Scott Jonhnson, Jim Hartung, and the team alternate Jim Mikus. Also, in 1984, Mary Lou Retton became the first American Olympic All-Around Champion, and won individual medals as well. In 1991 Kim Zmeskal became the first American World All-Around Champion. At the 1992 Olympics the American women won their first team medal (bronze) as well as the highest All-Around ranking, a silver medal by Shannon Miller, in a fully attended Games. In men's gymnastics, Trent Dimas was able to capture the gold medal on the Horizontal Bar. This was the second time that an American gymnast, male or female, won a gold medal in an Olympics held outside the United States. Since the breakup of the USSR, the U.S women's team has become increasingly successful with the 1996 Olympic team victory of the Magnificent Seven in Atlanta, the 2003 Worlds team victory in Anaheim, and a multiple medal hauls in both WAG and MAG at the 2004 Olympics. At the 2012 olympics the Fierce Five won the team gold. They have produced individual gymnasts such as Olympic All-Around Champions Carly Patterson (2004), Nastia Liukin (2008), and Gabby Douglas (2012), and World All-Around Champions Kim Zmeskal (1991), Shannon Miller (1993, 1994), Chellsie Memmel (2005), Shawn Johnson (2007), Bridget Sloan (2009), Jordyn Wieber (2011), and Simone Biles (2013). Of particular note is that at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne, American women won the all-around and every single event final except vault (in which they placed 3rd). They continue to be one of the most dominant forces in the sport. The men's team has also matured, making the medal podium at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics; they've also made the podium at the 2003 and 2011 World Championships. Paul Hamm, the most successful US male gymnast became the first American to win the World All-Around title in 2003. He followed this up by winning the gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games. 2010 World All-Around bronze medalist Jonathan Horton captured the silver medal on the Horizontal Bar at the 2008 Olympic Games.

China[edit]

China has developed strong, successful programs in both WAG and MAG over the past twenty five years, earning both team and individual medals. The Chinese men's team won the team gold at the 2000 Olympics, 2008 Olympics, and every team world championship since 1994 except in 2001 when they placed 5th. They have produced such individual gymnasts as Olympic (and World) All-Around Champions Li Xiaoshuang (1996) and Yang Wei (2008). The Chinese women's team won the team gold medal at the 2006 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics, and has produced individual gymnasts such as Olympic, World and World Cup champions such as Mo Huilan, Kui Yuanyuan, Yang Bo, Ma Yanhong and Cheng Fei. Chinese female Olympic individual gold medalists include Ma Yanhong, Lu Li, Liu Xuan, He Kexin and Deng Linlin. Though for many years considered a two event team (Uneven Bars and Balance beam) they have developed and continue to develop successful All-Around gymnasts, such as Olympic bronze-medalist Yang Yilin. However, similar to the former USSR they have been plagued by some western media reports relating to their grueling and sometimes cruel training methods and age falsification accusations.

Japan[edit]

Japan was largely dominant in MAG during the 1960s and 1970s, winning every team title at every single Olympics from 1960 through 1976 due to individual gymnasts such as Olympic All-Around Champions Sawao Kato and Yukio Endo. Several innovations pioneered by Japanese gymnasts during this era have remained in the sport, including the Tsukahara vault. Japanese men gymnasts have re-emerged as a team to reckon with since winning a team gold at the 2004 Olympics. Four time World Champion and Olympic gold-medalist Kohei Uchimura is widely considered to be the best All-Around gymnast ever. The women have been less successful, however there have been such standouts as Olympic and world medalist Keiko Tanaka Ikeda who competed in the 1950s and 1960s. There are also some emerging talents in recent years [Koko Tsurumi, Rie Tanaka,Yuka Tomita, Natsumi Saseda and Yuko Shintake] who may provide the woman's team with talent worthy of placing in the top three in the coming world competitions.

Germany[edit]

The German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, had an extremely successful gymnastics program before the reunification of Germany. Both the MAG and WAG teams frequently won silver or bronze team medals at the World Championships and Olympics. Male gymnasts such as Andreas Wecker and Roland Brückner and female gymnasts such as Maxi Gnauck and Karin Janz contributed to their country's success. After the reunification of Germany, they have continued to have a measure of success with such gymnasts as Fabian Hambüchen and the former Soviet/Uzbek gymnast Oksana Chusovitina.

Czechoslovakia[edit]

The Czechoslovakian women's team had a very long tradition of success and was the chief threat to the dominance of the Soviet women's team for decades. They won team medals at every World Championships and Olympics from 1934 to 1970 with the exceptions of only the 1950 Worlds and 1956 Olympics. Among their leaders were the first women's World All-Around Champion Vlasta Děkanová (1934, 1938) and Věra Čáslavská who won outright all (5) European, World and Olympic All-Around titles during an Olympic cycle from 1964 to 1968—a feat never matched by any other gymnast (male or female). Caslavska also led her teammates to the world team title in 1966, making the Czechoslovakians one of two national teams (the other being Romania’s) to ever defeat the Soviet women's team at a major competition. Although their men weren’t as successful as a team, they were still noteworthy and did produce 1907 World All-Around Champion Josef Cada who was a continuous presence at World Championships for years to come.

Hungary[edit]

Another Eastern Bloc country whose women achieved notable results was Hungary. Led by individuals such as 10-time Olympic medalist (with 5 golds) Ágnes Keleti, their team medaled at the first 4 Olympics with women's artistic gymnastics competitions (1936–1956) as well as at the 1954 World Championships. Their women’s program went into a decline with minor occasional success, although much later during the late 1980s and early 1990s, World and Olympic Vault Champion Henrietta Ónodi put them back on the map. Their men never had quite the same level of success as their women, although Zoltán Magyar dominated the pommel horse event during the 1970s, winning 8 (of a possible 9) European, World and Olympic titles from 1973–1980. World and Olympic Rings Champion Szilveszter Csollány also kept Hungary on the medal platform at major competitions for a decade starting in the early 1990s.

Other nations[edit]

Several other nations were at one time or have become in recent years serious contenders in both WAG and MAG. Part of the rise of the success of various countries' programs in recent years is attributable to the exodus of lots of talent from the USSR and other former Eastern Bloc countries. Korea, Canada, Spain, Greece, Australia, Brazil, France and Great Britain, among other countries, have produced Worlds and Olympic medalists and have started winning team medals at the European, World, and Olympic level.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ (Russian)"Sportivnaya gimnastika". Enciklopediya Krugosvet. Archived from the original on 2008-06-20. Retrieved April 11, 2006. 
  2. ^ "Artistic Gymnastics — History". IOC. Retrieved April 11, 2006. 
  3. ^ "Gymnastics". Encarta. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. Retrieved April 11, 2006. 
  4. ^ "Within the International Federations" (PDF). Olympic Review (155): p. 520. September 1980. Archived from the original on 24 May 2006. Retrieved 2006-04-11. 
  5. ^ "Apparatus Norms" (PDF). FIG. p. II/18. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  6. ^ Apparatus Norms, International Gymnastics Federation, p.63. Retrieved 2007-03-27.