Aim of the game
Combining strength, balance, flexibility and grace, gymnasts push themselves to their physical limits using a variety of apparatus, such as vaults, bars and beams, as well as in the spectacular apparatus-free ‘floor’ routines.
Why should you watch this?
With performances of strength and acrobatic skill featuring incredible flips and somersaults, the gymnastics on display across a full week of events will have you reassessing what you thought the human body was capable of.
Balanced position typical in beam and floor exercises where the gymnast keeps one foot on the beam and raises the other behind them with arms extended
One of the most basic poses in artistic gymnastics, involving balancing the upright body with both hands on the beam
A somersault during which the gymnast rotates around the axis of the body a full 360º
Impress your friends
Records of acrobatic performances with moves similar to those seen in gymnastics exist from Egypt, although common wisdom suggests that gymnastics itself originated in Ancient Greece
In ancient times, gymnastics competitions included wrestling and dueling with bulls – and since the men competed naked, women were banned from taking part and watching
Aged 14, Romanian Nadia Comaneci made history at Montreal 1976 as the first gymnast to receive full marks from all judges, known as the 'perfect 10'
At the 2003 World Championships, Brazilian Daiane dos Santos performed the first Arabian double pike in the floor exercises, a move now known as 'Dos Santos'
After 16 years without a gold medal, the US women won the team event at London 2012, scoring 183.596 points, well ahead of second-placed Russia
There are six apparatus for men and four for women:
- Uneven bars and balance beam are used for the women's events only
- Horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse and rings are for the men's competition only
- Both men and women compete in the floor and vault events
Medals are awarded for the individual all-round competitions, in which the gymnast performs on all apparatus, as well as for each apparatus and the team events.
Scores are awarded by a panel of nine referees who assess the difficulty and technical quality of moves.
A 1.15m tall apparatus with two handles, or pommels, on top, which allow the men to perform a series of manoeuvres using complex hand and body positions while keeping themselves atop the apparatus.
Two parallel rings, suspended 2.75m off the ground and 50cm apart by cables, are used by men in a series of exercises requiring incredible upper body strength and control.
Gymnasts sprint 25m towards this solid apparatus and jump onto its 120cm x 95cm surface, performing a variety of handsprung mid-air manoeuvres in the process, before landing on a mat.
A square mat, measuring 12m x 12m, with a 1m safety border, and sprung to provide added boost for somersaults and leaps (as well as cushioning falls), on which intricate gymnastic routines are performed lasting a maximum of 70 seconds for men and up to 90 seconds for women.
Horizontal bar: using only a steel bar 2.75m off the ground, male gymnasts perform a combination of hand manoeuvres and swinging jumps.
Uneven bars: the upper bar is 2.4m off the floor and the lower bar 1.6m, with athletes passing from one to the other and incorporating a series of grip changes, releases, jumps and other moves.
Parallel bars: two wooden rails on uprights, adjustable in height and used for swinging, vaulting and balancing exercises.
Balance beam: gymnasts perform somersaults and turns on a bar 5m long and 10cm wide.