Rhythmic gymnastics

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Group rhythmic gymnasts from Greece in Sydney 2000
Rhythmic gymnastics Group 10 clubs final - 27th Summer Universiade 2013 - Kazan

Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport in which individuals or teams of 5 or more manipulate one or two pieces of apparatus: clubs, hoop, ball, ribbon, rope and freehand (no apparatus). 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), apparatus handling, and execution. The choreography must cover the entire floor and contain a balance of jumps, leaps, pivots, balances and flexibility movements. Each movement involves a high degree of athletic skill. Physical abilities needed by a rhythmic gymnast include strength, power, flexibility, agility, dexterity, endurance and hand-eye coordination.

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. The largest events in the sport are the Olympic Games, World Championships, European Championships, World Cup and Grand-Prix Series.


2 time Olympic Champion Evgenia Kanaeva (2008 Beijing and 2012 London)

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.

The gymnast[edit]

(L-R) Alina Kabaeva (bronze), Yulia Barsukova (gold) and Yulia Raskina (silver) at 2000 Sydney Olympics

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, 2000 would be age eligible for the 2016 Olympics). Gymnasts in Russia and Europe typically start training at a very young age and those at their peak were typically in their late teens (15–19) or early twenties but since 2004 it is common to see gymnasts achieving their peak after reaching their twenties. Some gymnasts who were or are highly competitive in their early twenty or late twenties are Yulia Barsukova, Sylvia Miteva, Melitina Staniouta, Almudena Cid, Liubov Charkashyna, Aliya Yussupova, Aliya Garayeva, Ganna Rizatdinova, Delphine Ledoux, Anna Bessonova, Evgenia Kanaeva, and Carolina Rodriguez. The latter is still an active gymnast in the elite circuit of the sport with a career dating back to 2001. She and her fellow countrywoman Almudena Cid are among the oldest rhythmic gymnasts ever.[citation needed]

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.


The FIG 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.[1]

An individual athlete only manipulates one 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.

It may be made of hemp or a synthetic material which retains the qualities of lightness and suppleness. Its length is in proportion to the size of the gymnast. When the middle of the rope is held down by the feet, both ends should reach the gymnasts' armpits. One or two knots at each end are for keeping hold of the rope while doing the routine. At the ends (to the exclusion of all other parts of the rope) an anti-slip material, either coloured or neutral may cover a maximum of 10 cm (3.94 in). The rope must be colored, either all or partially. It may be either of a uniform diameter or be progressively thicker in the center provided that this thickening is of the same material as the rope. The fundamental requirements of a rope routine include leaps and skipping. Other elements include swings, throws, circles, rotations and figures of eight. In 2011, the FIG decided to nullify the use of rope in rhythmic gymnastic competitions.
A hoop may be made of plastic or wood, provided that it retains its shape during the routine. The interior diameter is from 51 to 90 cm, and the hoop must weigh a minimum of 300g. The hoop may be of a natural color or be partially or fully covered by one or several colors, and it may be covered with adhesive tape either of the same or different color as the hoop. Fundamental requirements of a hoop routine include rotation around the hand or body and rolling, as well as swings, circles, throws, and passes through and over the hoop. The routines in hoop involves mastery in both apparatus handling and body difficulty like leaps, jumps and pivots.
It is made of either rubber or synthetic material (pliable plastic) provided it possesses the same elasticity as rubber. It is from 18 to 20 cm in diameter and must have a minimum weight of 400g. The ball can be of any color. The ball should rest in the gymnast's hand and not rest against the wrist or be able to be grasped. Fundamental elements of a ball routine include throwing, bouncing or rolling. The gymnast must use both hands and work on the whole floor area whilst showing continuous flowing movement. The ball is to emphasize the gymnasts flowing lines and body difficulty.
Multi-piece clubs are the most popular clubs. The club is built along an internal rod, providing a base on which a handle made of polyolefin plastic is wrapped, providing an airspace between it and the internal rod. This airspace provides flex, cushioning impact, making the club softer on the hands. Foam ends and knobs further cushion the club. Multi-piece clubs are made in both a thin European style or larger bodied American style and in various lengths, generally ranging from 19 to 21 inches (480 to 530 mm). The handles and bodies are typically wrapped with decorative plastics and tapes. The skills involved are apparatus mastery and body elements, Clubs are thrown from alternate hands; each passes underneath the other clubs and is caught in the opposite hand to the one from which it was thrown. At its simplest, each club rotates once per throw, the handle moving down and away from the throwing hand at first. However, double and triple spins are frequently performed, allowing the club to be thrown higher for more advanced patterns and to allow tricks such as 360s to be performed underneath.
It is made of satin or another similar material cloth of any color, it may be multi-colored and have designs on it. The ribbon itself must be at least 35g (1 oz), 4–6 cm (1.6–2.4") in width and have a minimum length of 6m (20') for seniors and 5m (16.25') for juniors. The ribbon must be in one piece. The end that is attached to the stick is doubled for a maximum length of 1m (3'). This is stitched down both sides. At the top, a very thin reinforcement or rows of machine stitching for a maximum length of 5 cm is authorized. This extremity may end in a strap, or have an eyelet (a small hole, edged with buttonhole stitch or a metal circle), to permit attaching the ribbon. The ribbon is fixed to the stick by means of a supple attachment such as thread, nylon cord, or a series of articulated rings. The attachment has a maximum length of 7 cm (2.8"), not counting the strap or metal ring at the end of the stick where it will be fastened. Compulsory elements for the ribbon include flicks, circles, snakes and spirals, and throws. It requires a high degree of co-ordination to form the spirals and circles as any knots which may accidentally form in the ribbon are penalized. During a ribbon routine, large, smooth and flowing movements are looked for.

Format of competition[edit]

Competition levels[edit]

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.

Scoring and the Code of Points[edit]

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 2001, 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. Since the new Code of Points in 2013, there are two values adding up to be the final points— difficulty and execution.

Recent issues in the judging of elite-level qualifying tests have been reported by the New York Times.[2]

Major competitions[edit]

The largest events in the sport are the Olympic Games, World Championships, European Championships, World Cup and Grand-Prix Series.

Dominant teams and nations[edit]

Rhythmic gymnastics has been dominated by Eastern European countries, especially the Soviet Union (Post-Soviet Republics of today) and Bulgaria. The two countries were in rivalry with each other before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Soviet Union[edit]

Soviet Union: Before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Soviet rhythmic gymnasts were engaged in a fierce competition with Bulgaria. The first World Championships held in 1963 in Budapest, Hungary was won by Soviet gymnast Ludmila Savinkova and in 1967 in Copenhagen, Denmark the first Group Championships was also won by the USSR. Other Soviet World AA Champions in individuals included Elena Karpuchina, Galina Shugurova and Irina Deriugina. Marina Lobatch became the first Soviet to win the Olympic Games in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In 1991, The Unified Team was formed saw a competition of the two Soviet/Ukrainian gymnasts Olexandra Tymoshenko and Oxana Skaldina at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Other notable Soviet gymnasts include: Tatiana Kravtchenko, Liubov Sereda, Alfia Nazmutdinova, Natalia Krachinnekova, Elena Tomas, Irina Gabashvili, Irina Devina, Dalia Kutkaitė, Venera Zaripova, Galina Beloglazova and Tatiana Druchinina.


Bulgaria: Since the start of the inception of rhythmic gymnastics as a World Championship event, Bulgaria was in competition with the USSR, during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Bulgaria has won 10 individual World Titles with its star gymnasts Maria Gigova- 3 time World AA Champion, Neshka Robeva and Kristina Guiourova, the 1980s marked the height of Bulgarian success known as the Golden Girls of Bulgaria, with gymnasts Iliana Raeva, Anelia Ralenkova, Lilia Ignatova, Diliana Gueorguieva, Bianka Panova, Adriana Dunavska, Elizabeth Koleva dominating the World Championships. Bianka Panova became the first rhythmic gymnast to make a clean sweep of all five individual events at a World Championship by attaining full marks. She also became the first rhythmic gymnast to get onto the Guinness Book of Records by her perfect performance of full 10 marks in all her routines (total of 8) at a World Championship and received the trophy personally from the President of the International Olympic Committee at that time, Juan Antonio Samaranch. The early 1990s were marked by the full domination of Maria Petrova- 3 time World AA Champion and 3 time European AA Champion. The early 2000s marked the decline of individual RG of Bulgaria though with still a few notable gymnasts like Simona Peycheva and Sylvia Miteva. Bulgaria is currently more engaged in Group rhythmic gymnastics. Bulgaria's new generation of talents in individual gymnastics include Mariya Mateva, Neviana Vladinova and Katerina Marinova. Boyanka Angelova, who gained popularity among the public, retired early due to injuries.


Russia: After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has been the dominant country in rhythmic gymnastics since the start of the late 1990s saw the rise of stars like Amina Zaripova, Yanina Batyrchina and Alina Kabaeva. Oxana Kostina became Russia's first World Champion as an independent country. In the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Yulia Barsukova became the first Russian to win the Olympic gold medal, the feat was repeated 4 years later in the 2004 Athens Olympics was also won by another Russian, Alina Kabaeva. Evgenia Kanaeva became the first individual rhythmic gymnast to win two gold medals in the Olympic Games at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. Other notable gymnasts include Natalia Lipkovskaya, Irina Tchachina, Natalia Lavrova, Zarina Gizikova, Laysan Utiasheva, Vera Sessina, Olga Kapranova, Yelena Posevina, Anna Gavrilenko, Margarita Aliychuk, Daria Shkurikhina, Anastasia Maksimova, Tatiana Gorbunova, Uliana Donskova, Anastasia Nazarenko, Anastasia Bliznyuk, Ksenia Dudkina, Karolina Sevastyanova, Olga Ilina, Daria Kondakova, Daria Dmitrieva, Alexandra Merkulova, Margarita Mamun, Daria Svatkovskaya, Yana Kudryavtseva, Maria Titova, Aleksandra Soldatova, Dina Averina, Arina Averina, Irina Annenkova, Yulia Bravikova, Veronika Polyakova, Diana Borisova, Daria Dubova, Victoria Ilina, Natalia Safonova and Sofya Skomorokh. The Russian Group has won four of the five Group exercises held in the Olympics since it was included in the Olympic Games back in 1996 Summer Olympics.


Ukraine: Even as part of the USSR, a number of Soviet gymnasts were trained in Ukraine or with Ukrainian origin including the first World Champion Ludmila Savinkova and Liubov Sereda. The mother and daughter tandem of Albina and Irina Deriugina played an important role in the success of RG in the country, raising stars like Olexandra Tymoshenko and Oxana Skaldina. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine continued its success in rhythmic gymnastics with Kateryna Serebrianska winning the Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Other notable gymnasts include Anna Bessonova (two-time Olympic bronze medalist), Olena Vitrychenko, Tamara Yerofeeva, Natalia Godunko, Alina Maksymenko, Ganna Rizatdinova, Viktoriia Mazur, Anastasiia Mulmina and Eleonora Romanova.


Belarus: The country has had success in both Individual and Group rhythmic gymnastics after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is worth noting that the first Soviet Olympic gold medalist at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Marina Lobatch, was a Belarusian. Since the late 1990s, Belarus has had continued success in the Olympic Games and has won two silver and a bronze medals in individuals respectively with Yulia Raskina, Inna Zhukova and Liubov Charkashyna. Other notable gymnasts include Larissa Loukianenko, Melitina Staniouta, Aliaksandra Narkevich, Arina Charopa, Katsiaryna Halkina, Maria Kadobina and Mariya Trubach. The Belarusian Group has won two silver and a bronze medals in the Olympics.


Azerbaijan: Is now amongst the top country for Individual and Group rhythmic gymnastics. The development of the sport particularly boosted after Mehriban Aliyeva became the President of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation in 2002.[3] In 2007, Mariana Vasileva who was a former Bulgarian rhythmic gymnast and a coach in Levski club in Sofia came to Azerbaijan to coach Azerbaijani gymnasts. Since 2009, Vasileva has been appointed as head coach of the Azerbaijan Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation. Notable rhythmic gymnasts include 2011 World All-around bronze medalist Aliya Garayeva, Anna Gurbanova, Dinara Gimatova, Zeynab Javadli, Lala Yusifova, Marina Durunda and Zhala Piriyeva. Azerbaijan hosted big competitions like 2005 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, 2007 Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships, 2009 Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships, 2014 Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships, 2019 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships.


Spain: Spain has a great tradition in rhythmic gymnastics. Some notable success in rhythmic gymnastics for Spain include Carolina Pascual, the silver medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Carmen Acedo who won gold medal in clubs competition in World Championships on 1993, Almudena Cid, a four-time Olympian (1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008) and Carolina Rodriguez. Spain is more engaged in Group rhythmic gymnastics and the Spanish Group became the first to win the Olympic gold in Group rhythmic gymnastics since it was added in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The Spanish Group was formed by Estela Giménez, Marta Baldó, Nuria Cabanillas, Lorena Guréndez, Estíbaliz Martínez and Tania Lamarca.


Italy: Like Spain, Italy is more engaged in Group rhythmic gymnastics, the Italian Group is 4 time Group World AA Champion and has won two medals (a silver and a bronze) at the Olympic Games.


Israel: Is a rising nation in rhythmic gymnastics. Israeli head coach Irina Vigdorchik, who moved from Moscow to Israel in 1979, said rhythmic gymnastics had been brought to Israel by Russian immigrants in the early 1970s.[4] The sport began its success in the 2000s with notable Israeli gymnasts including Irina Risenzon, Neta Rivkin who have placed in Top 10 in the Olympic Games finals. Other notable gymnasts include Katerina Pisetsky, Veronika Vitenberg, Rahel Vigdozchik, Victoria Veinberg Filanovsky and Linoy Ashram. The Israeli Group has also begun to be amongst the leading Group rhythmic gymnasts in the World Cup and World Championship competitions.

Other Post-Soviet Republics[edit]

Other Post-Soviet Republics especially in Central Asia have had considerable success in rhythmic gymnastics including Kazakhstan with Aliya Yussupova who finished as high as 4th at the Olympic Games, other successful rhythmic gymnasts are Anna Alyabyeva, Sabina Ashirbayeva. In Uzbekistan notable gymnasts are: Ulyana Trofimova, Djamila Rakhmatova, Elizaveta Nazarenkova, Anastasiya Serdyukova and Valeriya Davidova. In Georgia, Soviet rhythmic gymnast and 1979 World All-around bronze medalist Irina Gabashvili was of Georgian origin. Other notable Georgian, is the dynamic Salome Pazhava, doing well in the Continental Games and World Championships.

Other nations[edit]

Romania, although has enjoyed more success in artistic gymnastics, also had their share of producing talents like Doina Stăiculescu, Irina Deleanu, Alexandra Piscupescu and Ana Luiza Filiorianu. Greece is primarily oriented towards Group exercises but has also established in individuals notably with gymnasts Maria Pagalou, Evmorfia Dona, Eleni Andriola and Varvara Filiou. France has had considerable success in Individual rhythmic gymnastics with Eva Serrano placing 5th at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, other French gymnasts include Delphine Ledoux and Kseniya Moustafaeva. Germany has also had considerable success in the sport with Ute Lehmann, Carmen Rischer, Christiana Rosenberg, Regina Weber, Magdalena Brzeska, Lisa Ingildeeva, Jana Berezko-Marggrander and Laura Jung. East Asia recently began its following and interest in the sport having gymnasts in South Korea with Son Yeon-jae, Japan with Sakura Hayakawa, Kaho Minagawa and in China with Deng Senyue doing well against the traditional rhythmic gymnastics powerhouse countries. Although it has not gained as much following compared to its artistic gymnastics counterpart, In the North American and South American Hemisphere it is also a rising sport in the USA, Brazil, Mexico and Canada with some notable rhythmic gymnasts include Mary Sanders, Alexandra Orlando, Cynthia Valdez, Angélica Kvieczynski, Jasmine Kerber, Patricia Bezzoubenko and Laura Zeng.

Men's rhythmic gymnastics[edit]

See also: [[ja:男子新体操]]

Rhythmic gymnastics is largely performed by women and girls, but a growing number of men participate in a few countries.[5] 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, there were 1000 men's rhythmic gymnasts in Japan.[citation needed]

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 the 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).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics Apparatus Programme - Olympic Cycles 2009–2016[dead link]
  2. ^ Pilon, Mary (16 July 2013). "Judges of a Graceful Sport, Caught in a Clumsy Cheating Scandal". New York Times. Retrieved 18 July 2013. The suspected cheating occurred late last year in testing rooms across Europe, where test takers looked to qualify for elite competition like the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. The International Gymnastics Federation, known as F.I.G., spent months investigating the episode. Much of their findings, spanning hundreds of pages, were obtained by The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Development of gymnastics in Azerbaijan
  4. ^ "Israeli rhythmic gymnastics born in FSU". JTA. 8 July 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "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. 

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