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 Are you a born gymnast?

Got the perfect build for gymnastics?

 

Dr Kevin Thompson, physiologist at the EIS (English Institute of Sport), explains the physical characteristics that make up the ultimate gymnast.

 

A small frame

 

Female gymnasts are small and light, while men are closer to average size. Being light helps the gymnast to achieve a high strength-to-weight ratio, and being small helps with rotational skills (for example, somersaults). For the same reason, gymnasts also tend to have short arms and legs.  

 

 

Flexibility


Flexibility is vital to achieve certain movements, but it's not necessarily a pre-requisite. That's because gymnasts often take up the sport at a very young age (nine-years-old or less), and undergo a stretching regime which trains them to be flexible.  

 

 

 

Strength


Male gymnasts are very strong - their large shoulder muscles are very evident when they perform on, for example, the rings. Female gymnasts have a light bodyweight but are very strong - and they have broad shoulders. Their strength enables them to move, support and control their body through a range of positions - for example, in some of the slow moving hand-stand positions on the floor exercise.

 

 

Gymnastics an Olympic sport since 1896

The Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) was formed on 23 July 1881 when representatives of the gymnastics associations of Belgium, France and the Netherlands met in Liège. As a governing body it is held in high esteem by both its member federations and gymnastics clubs throughout five continents. In 1897, seventeen national associations joined together to form the basis of the European Gymnastics Federation. However, when the USA was admitted in 1921, the Committee changed its name to the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique or FIG, as it is known today.

FIG comprises three Olympic disciplines: artistic, rhythmic and trampoline.

Each discipline is controlled by a Technical Committee made up of a Technical President and six members.The Technical Committees are responsible for the coordination and control of their specific discipline in terms of the technical requirements for competition as they relate to each specific discipline. 

 

Artistic Gymnastics

A perfect fusion of athletics and aesthetics, gymnastics ranks among the defining sports of the Olympic Games. Mixing strength and agility with style and grace, the high-flying acrobats have provided many of the most breathtaking Olympic spectacles of the past quarter-century.

 

Nadia Comeneci's perfect 10 score at the 1976 Montreal Games, the first ever awarded, remains the high-water mark for most gymnastics fans. The 14-year-old Romanian achieved the seemingly impossible seven times in Montreal, a feat so unexpected that the scoring technology was set up for only three digits. Her 10.00s were displayed as 1.00.

Gymnastics has a long, proud history. The sport can be traced back to ancient Greece, where such skills featured in the ancient Olympic Games. Ancient Rome, Persia, India and China practised similar disciplines, mostly aimed at preparing young men for battle. The word itself derives from the Greek word gymnos, meaning naked - dress requirements for athletes in those days were minimal, to say the least.

In artistic events (performed on an apparatus), men compete in floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bars. Female gymnasts compete on the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor. The competition includes all-round events and team events, also scored over each apparatus.

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