Artistic gymnastics is a discipline of gymnastics in which athletes perform short routines (ranging from about 30 to 90 seconds) on different apparatuses, with less time for vaulting. 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. Within individual countries, gymnastics is regulated by national federations, such as Gymnastics Canada, British Gymnastics, and USA Gymnastics. Artistic gymnastics is a popular spectator sport at many competitions, including the Summer Olympic Games.|
In 1881, the FIG was founded, and it remains the governing body of international gymnastics. It initially included only three countries and was called the European Gymnastics Federation until 1921, when the first non-European countries joined the federation and it was reorganized into its present form. Gymnastics was included in the program of the 1896 Summer Olympics, but women have been allowed to participate in the Olympics only since 1928. The World Championships, held since 1903, were open only to men until 1934. Since that time, two branches of artistic gymnastics have developed: women's artistic gymnastics (WAG) and men's artistic gymnastics (MAG). Unlike men's and women's branches of many other sports, WAG and MAG differ significantly in apparatus used at major competitions and in techniques.
The FIG responded to this trend by raising the minimum age for international elite competition to 16 in 1997. This, combined with changes in the Code of Points and evolving popular opinion in the sport, led to the return of older gymnasts. While the average elite female gymnast is still in her middle to late teens and of below-average height and weight, it is also common to see gymnasts competing well into their 20s. At the 2004 Olympics, both the second-place American team and the third-place Russians were captained by women in their mid-20s; several other teams, including Australia, France, and Canada, included older gymnasts. At the 2008 Olympics, the silver medalist on vault, Oksana Chusovitina, was a 33-year-old mother. She received another silver medal on vault at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, when she was 36. At the age of 41, Chusovitina competed at her 7th consecutive Olympics at the 2016 Olympics, a world record for gymnastics.
The still rings are suspended on wire cable from a point 5.8 m (19 ft) off the floor and adjusted in height so the gymnast has room to hang freely and swing. He must perform a routine demonstrating balance, strength, power, and dynamic motion while preventing the rings themselves from swinging. At least one static strength move is required, but some gymnasts may include two or three. Most routines begin with a difficult mount and conclude with a difficult dismount.
During the qualification (abbreviated TQ) round, gymnasts compete with their national squad on all four (WAG) or six (MAG) apparatus. The scores from this session are not used to award medals, but are used to determine which teams advance to the team finals and which individual gymnasts advance to the all-around and event finals. For the 2020 Olympic cycle a new qualification format has been adopted. Each country can enter six gymnasts: a four-person team and two individual gymnasts. The current format of team qualification is 4𣯕, meaning that there are four gymnasts on the team, all four compete on each event, and three of the scores count. Individual gymnasts also compete to be qualified to the all-around and event finals, but their scores do not count toward team score.
Competitions use the New Life scoring rule, which was introduced in 1989. Under New Life, marks from one session do not carry over to the next. In other words, a gymnast's performance in team finals does not affect his or her scores in the all-around finals or event finals; he or she starts with a clean slate. In addition, the marks from the team qualifying round do not count toward the team finals.
The compulsories were routines that were developed and choreographed by the FIG Technical Committee. They were performed on the first day of the team competition. Every single elite gymnast in every FIG member nation performed the same exercises. The dance and tumbling skills of compulsory routines were generally less difficult than those of optionals, but heavily emphasized perfect technique, form and execution. Scoring was exacting with judges taking deductions for even slight deviations from the required choreography. For this reason, many gymnasts and coaches considered compulsories more challenging to execute than optionals.
In Germany, there are different competitive systems for grassroots sport and for high-performance sport. For hobby sportsmen there is a system of compulsory exercises from 1 to 9 and optional exercises from 4 to 1 with modified requirements of the code of points. This competitions end on national level. For high-performance and junior athletes there are several compulsory and optional requirements, defined by age (age class exercises) from age 6 to 18.
Only senior gymnasts are allowed to compete in the Olympics, World Championships and World Cup circuit. For the current Olympic cycle, in order to compete in the 2016 Olympics, a female gymnast must have a birthdate before 1 January 2001 (corresponding to an age of at least 15 years and 8 months on the first day of the games), the counterpart gender must be minimum 18 years old. There is no maximum age restriction.
Gymnasts, coaches, officials are among many who have protested the new code, with Olympic gold medalists Lilia Podkopayeva, Svetlana Boguinskaya, Shannon Miller and Vitaly Scherbo and Romanian team coach Nicolae Forminte publicly voicing their opposition. In addition, the 2006 report from the FIG Athletes' Commission cited major concerns about scoring, judging and other points of the new Code. Aspects of the code were revised in 2007; but there are no plans to abandon the new scoring system and return to the 10.0 format.