In women’s artistic gymnastics there are four apparatus to contend with. Not all gymnasts will compete on every apparatus but for those aiming for all-around glory this is what they face:
The low bar is set around 170cm in height and the high bar often around 250cm. The distance between the two bars is set at a maximum of 180cm.
Swinging and continuous movements are required on this apparatus. Routines typically include movements in both directions as well as above and below the bars. Elements with twists and somersaults with multiple grip changes and high flight often are awarded with the highest scores. Like the men’s horizontal bar, the wind up and dismount is often the most exciting part of the routine.
Perhaps the most precarious piece of apparatus for girls, the beam stands 1.25 metres from the floor, is five metres long and if that was not posing enough of a challenge, is only 10cm wide.
A beam routine is an exercise in precision with no room for error. The gymnast performs a combination of acrobatic elements, leaps, jumps, turns, steps, waves and balances. These can be done standing, sitting or lying on the beam. It is a requirement that the gymnast uses the entire length of the beam, with routines ending with a dramatic dismount.
Gymnasts approach the vault from a 25 metre run, transferring their speed to the springboard and seeking a quick hand placement to the vaulting table (which is 10 cms lower than the men’s height). The gymnast then uses internal spring to launch themselves vertically for a combination of somersaults and twists. A good landing should be with no steps, at least 2 metres from the vaulting table and between the white lines to avoid deduction.
The floor exercise allows the gymnast their moment in the spotlight and is considered by many to be the most expressive piece of women’s apparatus.
A floor routine, always accompanied by music, lasts between 1 minute 20 seconds to 1 minute 30 seconds. The gymnast includes a combination of dance movements and sequences interspersed with a variety of tumbling and acrobatic elements. The whole floor area must be used in the routine with clear variances in mood, tempo and direction. Individuality, originality, and artistry of presentation are the key ingredients of a great routine.
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