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Rhythmic gymnastics is an activity in which individuals or teams of 5 manipulate one or two pieces of apparatus: clubs, hoop, ball, ribbon, rope and Free (no apparatus). An individual athlete only manipulates 1 apparatus at a time. When multiple gymnasts are performing a routine together a maximum of two types of apparatus may be distributed through the group. An athlete can exchange apparatus with a team member at any time through the routine. Therefore, an athlete can manipulate up to two different pieces of apparatus through the duration of the routine. Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, dance, and apparatus manipulation. The victor is the participant who earns the most points, determined by a panel of judges, for leaps, balances, pirouettes (pivots), flexibilities, apparatus handling, execution, and artistic effect.
The governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), changed the Code of Points in 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2008 to emphasize technical elements and reduce the subjectivity of judging. Before 2001, judging was on a scale of 10 like that of artistic gymnastics. It was changed to a 30-point scale in 2003, a 20-point scale in 2005, in 2008 was changed back to 30 scale, the 20-point scale was returned under the new Code of Points in 2013. There are three values adding up to be the final points—technical, artistic, and execution. The FIG also selects which apparatus will be used in competitions; only four out of the five possible apparatuses are sanctioned. Up to 2010, the clubs were not used at the Senior level. For 2011 rope will be dropped for senior national individual and group competition. In 2011, it will be dropped for junior national individual competition but return again in 2015. Rope appears in Junior National group competition in 2011-2012. 
International competitions are split between Juniors, under sixteen by their year of birth; and Seniors, for women sixteen and over again by their year of birth. Gymnasts in Russia and Europe typically start training at a very young age and those at their peak are typically in their late teens (15–19) or early twenties. The largest events in the sport are the Olympic Games, World Championships, European Championships, World Cup and Grand-Prix Series.
Rhythmic gymnastics grew out of the ideas of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727–1810), François Delsarte (1811–1871), and Rudolf Bode (1881–1970), who all believed in movement expression, where one used dance to express oneself and exercise various body parts. Peter Henry Ling further developed this idea in his 19th-century Swedish system of free exercise, which promoted "aesthetic gymnastics", in which students expressed their feelings and emotions through bodily movement. This idea was extended by Catharine Beecher, who founded the Western Female Institute in Ohio, United States, in 1837. In Beecher's gymnastics program, called "grace without dancing", the young women exercised to music, moving from simple calisthenics to more strenuous activities.
During the 1880s, Émile Jaques-Dalcroze of Switzerland developed eurhythmics, a form of physical training for musicians and dancers. George Demeny of France created exercises to music that were designed to promote grace of movement, muscular flexibility, and good posture. All of these styles were combined around 1900 into the Swedish school of rhythmic gymnastics, which would later add dance elements from Finland. Around this time, Ernst Idla of Estonia established a degree of difficulty for each movement. In 1929, Hinrich Medau founded The Medau School in Berlin to train gymnasts in "modern gymnastics", and to develop the use of the apparatus.
Competitive rhythmic gymnastics began in the 1940s in the Soviet Union. The FIG formally recognized this discipline in 1961, first as modern gymnastics, then as rhythmic sportive gymnastics, and finally as rhythmic gymnastics. The first World Championships for individual rhythmic gymnasts was held in 1963 in Budapest. Groups were introduced at the same level in 1967 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Rhythmic gymnastics was added to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, with an Individual All-Around competition. However, many federations from the Eastern European countries were forced to boycott by the Soviet Union. Canadian Lori Fung was the first rhythmic gymnast to earn an Olympic gold medal. The Group competition was added to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The Spanish group won the first gold medal of the new competition with a team formed by Estela Giménez, Marta Baldó, Nuria Cabanillas, Lorena Guréndez, Estíbaliz Martínez and Tania Lamarca.
Olympic rhythmic gymnastics is only for female participants. Girls start at a young age and become age-eligible to compete in the Olympic Games and other major international competitions on January 1 of their 16th year. (For example, a gymnast born December 31, 1996 would be age eligible for the 2012 Olympics.) Top rhythmic gymnasts must have many qualities: balance, flexibility, coordination, and strength are some of the most important. They also must possess psychological attributes such as the ability to compete under intense pressure, in which one mistake can cost them the title, and the discipline and work ethic to practice the same skills over and over again.
Men's rhythmic gymnastics
Rhythmic gymnastics is largely performed by women and girls, but a growing number of men participate in a few countries. Athletes are judged on some of the same physical abilities and skills as their female counterparts, such as hand/body-eye co-ordination, but tumbling, strength, power, and martial arts skills are the main focus, as opposed to flexibility and dance in women's rhythmic gymnastics. There are a growing number of participants, competing alone and on a team; it is most popular in Asia, especially in Japan where high school and university teams compete fiercely. As of 2002[update], there were 1000 men's rhythmic gymnasts in Japan.
Men's rhythmic gymnastics is related to both Men's artistic gymnastics and wushu martial arts. It emerged in Japan from stick gymnastics. Stick gymnastics has been taught and performed for many years with the aim of improving physical strength and health.
The technical rules for the Japanese version of men's rhythmic gymnastics came around 1970s. For individuals, only four types of apparatus are used: the double rings, the stick, the rope, and the clubs. Groups do not use any apparatus. The Japanese version includes tumbling performed on a spring floor. Points are awarded based a 10-point scale that measures the level of difficulty of the tumbling and apparatus handling.
On November 27–29, 2003, Japan hosted the Men's RG World Championship. This first championship drew five countries from two continents: Japan, Canada, Korea, Malaysia, and the United States. The 2005 World Championship included Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, Russia, and USA. Men's RG is not currently recognized by the FIG.
There are, particularly in Europe, some male rhythmic gymnasts who train and perform in much the same way as their female counterparts. They are, however, not eligible to participate in any major competition. Examples include Rubén Orihuela (Spain), Ismael Del Valle (Spain), Jose Sanchez Diaz (Spain), and Thomas Gandon (France).
- List of gymnasts
- List of Olympic medalists in gymnastics (women)
- World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships
- Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships
- Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup
- Rhythmic Gymnastics Grand Prix Series
- Gymnastics at the World Games
-  FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics Apparatus Programme - Olympic Cycles 2009–2016
- "Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique : About Rhythmic". Retrieved 18 November 2012. "Women only compete in Rhythmic Gymnastics, although in Japan and some other countries, men also practice the sport."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Rhythmic gymnastics|
- Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (English) / (French)
- Men's Rhythmic Gymnastics
- More on rhythmic gymnastics