Gymnastics is a sport
of strength and grace. Gymnasts must not only be in excellent shape to perform the moves that make the sport famous, they must also be graceful and elegant enough to make the extreme feats seems simple. Gymnastics is a sport for everyone, but only a few gifted athletes make it to the professional level.
As far as most of the world is concerned, professional gymnastics climaxes at the Olympics. Every four years the best gymnasts and other athletes from around the world come together to compete. There are two kinds of gymnastics that compete at the Olympics, artistic and rhythmic.
Rhythmic gymnastics does not get as much attention internationally as the more athletic artistic gymnastics. Rhythmic gymnastics have more focus on the visual aesthetics of the movements and are often aided by an apparatus such as ball, ribbon, hoops, club or rope on the floor mat. The gymnast does not use the vault or bars seen in artistic gymnastics, but rather does a complex floor routine focused on rhythm and motion. Traditionally rhythmic gymnastics was a female sport, but recently Japan has begun working toward a male rhythmic program.
Artistic gymnastics could be termed athletic gymnastics. This is the sort of athlete we’re used to seeing flipping, jumping and flying through the air. The gymnasts, both male and female, that participate in this event are in outstanding condition and are often rather small and compact. Much of the exercises in artistic gymnastics involve tucking and balance, so smaller frames are more ideally suited – although some gymnasts are taller.
Artistic gymnasts compete on four events.
Vault – The vault is essentially a table at the end of an 82 foot runway. To vault, you race down the runway, jump onto the springboard, touch the vault and use the vault to propel yourself into the air for a grand landing. In 2002, a new vault was used in competition that is safer than the previous one. This new vault has made all kinds of new and more dangerous jumps possible.
Uneven Bars – The uneven bars are two parallel bars that are, well, uneven. One is higher than the other. The gymnast flips and spins around and between the bars. The more difficult (and dangerous) a routine, the higher the score can be if the routine is done well. Balance Beam
– The balance beam is a sixteen foot long beam raised four feet off the ground. It is only four inches wide, so gymnasts must balance carefully as they roll, dance, spin and jump on it.
Floor – The floor is perhaps the safest of the four events. It is simply a large squishy mat used for running flips and flops. A floor routine usually has a combination of tumbling, dancing and jumps. It is also set to music which makes it upbeat and peppy.
I have a great deal of respect for gymnasts. I was never very good at gymnastics myself, but those girls have always awed me with their abilities and how strong they are. Coming from someone who can barely do a somersault – gymnasts, you rock!