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Gymnastics is a sport involving the performance of exercises requiring physical strength, flexibility, power, agility, coordination, grace and balance. Internationally, all of the competitive gymnastic sports are governed by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG). Each country has its own national governing body (BIW) affiliated to FIG. Competitive artistic gymnastics is the best known of the gymnastic sports. It typically involves the women's events of uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise, and vault. Men's events are floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar. Gymnastics evolved from exercises used by the ancient Greeks that included skills for mounting and dismounting a horse, and from circus performance skills.
Other gymnastic disciplines include: rhythmic gymnastics, trampolining, Team Gym, tumbling, aerobic gymnastics and acrobatic gymnastics. Participants can include children as young as 20 months old doing kindergym and children's gymnastics, recreational gymnasts of ages 5 and up, competitive gymnasts at varying levels of skill, and world class athletes.
The word gymnastics derives from the common Greek adjective γυμνός (gymnos) meaning "naked", by way of the related verb γυμνάζω (gymnazo), whose meaning is "to train naked", "train in gymnastic exercise", generally "to train, to exercise". The verb had this meaning, because athletes in ancient times exercised and competed without clothing. 1570s, from Latin gymnasticus, from Greek gynmastikos "fond of or skilled in bodily exercise," from gymnazein "to exercise or train" (see gymnasium).
In 1569, Girolamo Mercuriale from Forlì (Italy) wrote Le Arte Gymnastica, which brought together his study of the attitudes of the ancients toward diet, exercise and hygiene, and the use of natural methods for the cure of disease. De Arte Gymnastica also explained the principles of physical therapy and is considered the first book on sports medicine.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Germany, three pioneer physical educators – Johann Friedrich GutsMuths (1759–1839) and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778–1852) – created exercises for boys and young men on apparatus they had designed that ultimately led to what is considered modern gymnastics. Don Francisco Amorós y Ondeano, marquis de Sotelo, was born on February 19, 1770 in Valence and died on August 8, 1848 in Paris. He was a Spanish colonel, and the first person to introduce educative gymnastic in France. Jahn promoted the use of parallel bars, rings and high bar in international competition.
The Federation of International Gymnastics (FIG) was founded in Liege in 1881. By the end of the nineteenth century, men's gymnastics competition was popular enough to be included in the first "modern" Olympic Games in 1896. From then on until the early 1950s, both national and international competitions involved a changing variety of exercises gathered under the rubric, gymnastics, that would seem strange to today's audiences and that included for example, synchronized team floor calisthenics, rope climbing, high jumping, running, and horizontal ladder. During the 1920s, women organized and participated in gymnastics events. The first women's Olympic competition was primitive, for it involved only synchronized calisthenics, was held at the 1928 Games, in Amsterdam.
By 1954, Olympic Games apparatus and events for both men and women had been standardized in modern format, and uniform grading structures (including a point system from 1 to 15) had been agreed upon. At this time, Soviet gymnasts astounded the world with highly disciplined and difficult performances, setting a precedent that continues. The new medium of television has helped publicize and initiate a modern age of gymnastics. Both men's and women's gymnastics now attract considerable international interest, and excellent gymnasts can be found on every continent. Nadia Comăneci received the first perfect score, at the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal, Canada. She was coached in Romania by coach, (Hungarian ethnicity), Béla Károlyi. Comaneci scored four of her perfect tens on the uneven bars, two on the balance beam and one in the floor exercise. Even with Nadia's perfect scores, the Romanians lost the gold medal to the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Comaneci became an Olympic icon.
In 2006, a new points system for Artistic gymnastics was put into play. With an A Score (or D score) being the difficulty score, which as of 2009 is based on the top 8 high scoring elements in a routine (excluding Vault). The B Score (or E Score), is the score for execution, and is given for how well the skills are performed.
Artistic gymnastics is usually divided into Men's and Women's Gymnastics. Men compete on six events: Floor Exercise, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars, and High Bar, while women compete on four: Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise. In some countries, women at one time competed on the rings, high bar, and parallel bars (for example, in the 1950s in the USSR). Though routines performed on each event may be short, they are physically exhausting and push the gymnast's strength, flexibility, endurance and awareness to the limit.
In 2006, FIG introduced a new points system for Artistic gymnastics in which scores are no longer limited to 10 points. The system is used in the US for elite level competition. Unlike the old code of points, there are two separate scores, an execution score and a difficulty score. In the previous system, the "execution score" was the only score. It was and still is out of 10.00. During the gymnast's performance, the judges deduct from this score only. A fall, on or off the event, is a 1.00 deduction, in elite level gymnastics. The introduction of the difficulty score is a significant change. The gymnast's difficulty score is based on what elements they perform and is subject to change if they do not perform or complete all the skills, or they do not connect a skill meant to be connected to another. Connection bonuses are the most common deduction from a difficulty score, as it can be difficult to connect multiple flight elements. It is very hard to connect skills if the first skill is not performed correctly. The new code of points allows the gymnasts to gain higher scores based on the difficulty of the skills they perform as well as their execution. There is no maximum score for difficulty, as it can keep increasing as the difficulty of the skills increase.
In the vaulting events gymnasts sprint down a 25 metres (82 ft) runway, jump onto or perform a roundoff entry onto a springboard (run/ take-off segment), land momentarily, inverted on the hands on the vaulting horse or vaulting table (pre flight segment), then sprint off of this platform to a two footed landing (post flight segment). Every gymnast starts at a different point on the vault runway depending on their height and strength. The post flight segment may include one or more multiple saltos or somersaults, and/or twisting movements. Round-off entry vaults are the most common vaults in elite level gymnastics. In vaults with roundoff entries, gymnasts "round-off" so hands are on the runway while the feet land on the springboard (beatboard). From the roundoff position the gymnast travels backwards as in a backhandspring so that the hands land on the vaulting platform (horse). She then blocks off the vaulting platform into various twisting and/or somersaulting combinations. The post flight segment brings the gymnast to her feet.
In 2001, the traditional vaulting horse was replaced with a new apparatus, sometimes known as a tongue or vaulting table. The new apparatus is more stable, wider, and longer than the older vaulting horse—approximately 1m in length and 1m in width—giving gymnasts a larger blocking surface, and is therefore considered safer than the vaulting horse used in the past. With the addition of this new, safer vaulting table, gymnasts are attempting more difficult and dangerous vaults.
On the uneven bars (also known as asymmetric bars, UK), the gymnast performs a routine on two horizontal bars set at different heights. These bars are made of fiberglass covered in wood laminate, to prevent them from breaking. In the past, bars were made of wood, but the bars were prone to breaking, providing an incentive to switch to newer technologies. The width of the bars may be adjusted. Gymnasts perform swinging, circling, transitional, and release moves, that may pass over, under, and between the two bars. Movements may pass through the handstand. Gymnasts often mount the Uneven Bars using a springboard, or a small mat.
The gymnast performs a choreographed routine up to 90 seconds in length consisting of leaps, acrobatic skills, somersaults, turns and dance elements on a padded beam. The beam is 125 centimetres (4 ft 1 in) from the ground, 500 centimetres (16 ft 5 in) long, and 10 centimetres (3.9 in) wide. The event requires, in particular, balance, flexibility, poise and strength.
In the past, the Floor Exercise event was executed on the bare floor or mats such as wrestling mats. Today, the floor event occurs on a carpeted 12m × 12m square, usually consisting of hard foam over a layer of plywood, which is supported by springs or foam blocks generally called a "spring" floor. This provides a firm surface that provides extra bounce or spring when compressed, allowing gymnasts to achieve extra height and a softer landing than would be possible on a standard floor. Gymnasts perform a choreographed routine up to 90 seconds in the Floor Exercise event. They must choose an accompanying music piece. In some gymnastic associations such as United States Association of Gymnastic Clubs (USAIGC), gymnasts are allowed to have vocals in their music but USA Gymnastics competitions a large deduction is taken from the score for having vocals in the music. The routine should consist of tumbling lines, series of jumps, dance elements, acrobatic skills, and turns, or piviots, on one foot. A gymnast can perform up to four tumbling lines that usually includes at least one flight element without hand support. Each level of gymnastics requires the athlete to perform a different number of tumbling passes. In level 7 in the United States, a gymnast is required to do 2–3, and in levels 8–10, at least 3–4 tumbling passes are required.
A gymnast's score comes from deductions taken from their start value. The start value of a routine is calculated based on the difficulty of the elements the gymnast attempts and whether or not the gymnast meets composition requirements. The composition requirements are different for each apparatus. This score is called the D score. Deductions in execution and artistry are taken from 10.0. This score is called the E score. The final score is calculated by taking deductions from the E score, and adding the result to the D score. Since 2007, the scoring system has changed by adding bonus plus the execution and then adding those two together to get the final score.
In an aerial routine, or any form of tumbling, landing is the final phase, following take off and flight  This is a critical skill in terms of execution in competition scores, general performance, and injury occurrence. Without the necessary magnitude of energy dissipation during impact, the risk of sustaining injuries during somersaulting increases. These injuries commonly occur at the lower extremities and include; cartilage lesions, ligament tears, and bone bruises/fractures. To avoid such injuries, and to receive a high performance score, proper technique must be used by the gymnast. "The subsequent ground contact or impact landing phase must be achieved using a safe, aesthetic and well-executed double foot landing."  A successful landing in gymnastics is classified as soft, meaning the knee and hip joints are at greater than 63 degrees of flexion.
A higher flight phase results in a higher vertical ground reaction force. Vertical ground reaction force represents external force which the gymnasts have to overcome with their muscle force and has an impact on the gymnasts linear and angular momentum. Another important variable that affects linear and angular momentum is time the landing takes Gymnasts can alter the shape of the area by increasing the time taken to perform the landing. Gymnasts can achieve this by increasing hip, knee and ankle amplitude. With the increase of height, the amplitude in ankles knees and hips rise.
As with the women, male gymnasts are also judged on all of their events, for their execution, degree of difficulty, and overall presentation skills.
Only women compete in rhythmic gymnastics although there is a new version of this discipline for men being pioneered in Japan (see Men's rhythmic gymnastics). This is a sport that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, dance, and apparatus manipulation. The sport involves the performance of five separate routines with the use of five apparatus—ball, ribbon, hoop, clubs, rope—on a floor area, with a much greater emphasis on the aesthetic rather than the acrobatic. There are also group routines consisting of 5 gymnasts and 5 apparatuses of their choice. Rhythmic routines are scored out of a possible 30 points; the score for artistry (choreography and music) is averaged with the score for difficulty of the moves and then added to the score for execution.
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.
Trampolining and tumbling consists of four events, individual and synchronized trampoline, double mini trampoline, and tumbling (also known as power tumbling or rod floor). Since 2000, individual trampoline has been included in the Olympic Games. Individual routines in trampolining involve a build-up phase during which the gymnast jumps repeatedly to achieve height, followed by a sequence of ten bounces without pause during which the gymnast performs a sequence of aerial skills. Routines are marked out of a maximum score of 10 points. Additional points (with no maximum at the highest levels of competition) can be earned depending on the difficulty of the moves and the length of time taken to complete the ten skills which is an indication of the average height of the jumps. In high level competitions, there are two preliminary routines, one which has only two moves scored for difficulty and one where the athlete is free to perform any routine. This is followed by a final routine which is optional. Some competitions restart the score from zero for the finals, other add the final score to the preliminary results.
Synchronized trampoline is similar except that both competitors must perform the routine together and marks are awarded for synchronization as well as the form and difficulty of the moves.
Double mini trampoline involves a smaller trampoline with a run-up, two moves are performed per routine. Moves cannot be repeated in the same order on the double-mini during a competition. Skills can be repeated if a skill is competed as a mounter in one routine and a dismount in another. The scores are marked in a similar manner to individual trampoline.
In tumbling, athletes perform an explosive series of flips and twists down a sprung tumbling track. Scoring is similar to trampolining.
Acrobatic gymnastics (formerly Sport Acrobatics), often referred to as "Acro" if involved with the sport, acrobatic sports or simply sports acro, is a group gymnastic discipline for both men and women. Acrobats in groups of two, three and four perform routines with the heads, hands and feet of their partners. They may, subject to regulations (e.g. no lyrics), pick their own music.
There are four international age categories: 11-16, 12-18, 13-19, and Senior (15+), which are used in the World Championships and many other events around the world, including European Championships and World Games. All levels require a balance and dynamic routine, 12-18, 13-19, and Seniors are also required to perform a final (combined) routine.
Currently acrobatic gymnastics is marked out of 30.00 (can be higher at Senior FIG level based on difficulty):
Aerobic gymnastics (formally Sport Aerobics) involves the performance of routines by individuals, pairs, trios or groups up to 6 people, emphasizing strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness rather than acrobatic or balance skills. Routines are performed for all individuals on a 7x7m floor and also for 12–14 and 15–17 trios and mixed pairs. From 2009, all senior trios and mixed pairs were required to be on the larger floor (10x10m), all groups also perform on this floor. Routines generally last 60–90 seconds depending on age of participant and routine category.
The TeamGym competition is one of the latest new events within the UEG. The first official competition was held in Finland in 1996 and it takes place every even-numbered year. TeamGym is a team competition for clubs and consist of three sections: women, men and mixed teams.
TeamGym competitions exhibit gymnastic skills in three different disciplines; floor, tumbling and trampette. In common for the performance is effective teamwork, good technique in the element and spectacular acrobatic elements. The event is attractive for spectators and media as well as sponsors.
General gymnastics enables people of all ages and abilities to participate in performance groups of 6 to more than 150 athletes. They perform synchronized, choreographed routines. Troupes may be all one gender or mixed. There are no age divisions in general gymnastics. The largest general gymnastics exhibition is the quadrennial World Gymnaestrada which was first held in 1939. In 1984 Gymnastics for All was officially recognized first as a Sport Program by the FIG (International Gymnastic Federation), and subsequently by national gymnastic federations world wide with participants that now number 30 million.
Starting in 2011, the rhythmic apparatus rope will be removed from all FIG events and clubs will be returned to the competition. FIG has a policy of only using four of the five pieces of apparatus and changes them for different Olympic cycles. This will affect World Cups, World Championships, and Olympics.
Generally, competitors climbed either a 6m (6.1m = 20 ft in USA) or an 8m (7.6m = 25 ft in USA), 38mm (1.5") diameter natural fiber rope for speed, starting from a seated position on the floor and using only the hands and arms. Kicking the legs in a kind of "stride" was normally permitted. Many gymnasts can do this in the straddle or pike position, which eliminates the help generated from the legs.
Flying rings was an event similar to still rings, but with the performer executing a series of stunts while swinging. It was a gymnastic event sanctioned by both the NCAA and the AAU until the early 1960s.
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