Women’s Artistic Gymnastics is the most popular and well known to the public of the seven gymnastics disciplines.
The popularity of the sport of Women’s Artistic Gymnastics as it is known today, is largely due to the performances of Olga Korbut of the USSR at the 1972 Olympics, and of Nadia Comaneci, of Romania at the 1976 Olympics, in Montreal. Both Olga and Nadia captured the attention and imagination of girls all over the world, resulting in the most rapid growth of any sport in recent history. The reason for this popularity can most likely be chalked up to the ability of the sport to build upon the lively movements and grace of youth.
Women’s Artistic Gymnastics is an incredibly challenging sport, demanding strength, power, flexibility, agility, courage, and a combination of technical precision and artistic creativity. When these elements are mastered, the performances appear almost effortless and are riveting to watch.
The competition program of women’s artistic gymnastics includes the vaulting table, the uneven bars, the beam, and the floor.
For the women, the vaulting table is 1.25 m high; it is placed perpendicularly to the approach, a springboard placed in front of it. The gymnasts perform two vaults, of which the better one counts for the score.
The uneven bars consist of two wooden or fibreglass bars, each resting on vertical supports of different heights. The lower bar is 1.61 m from the floor, while the upper bar is at 2.41 meters.
Perhaps the most dramatic piece of apparatus in women’s gymnastics is the beam, a band 10 cm wide and 5 m long, on which competitors perform daring exercises, while perched at 1.25 m above the floor. Routines must include a variety of acrobatic elements, such as jumps and leaps, turns, steps, combinations of walking and running steps, as well as wave and balance elements performed in a standing, sitting, or lying position. The gymnast must use the entire length of the apparatus, while expressing simultaneously elegance, flexibility, confidence, and self-control. The maximum required time for the beam exercise is 1 minute and 30 seconds.
While the competitor’s courage is tested on the beam, floor exercises are the gauge for skills and free expression. Accompanied by music, this performance is a blend of dance movements and a wide range of tumbling and acrobatic elements. The gymnastic or acrobatic elements vary according to the tempo, the mood or the direction taken over the 12 m x 12 m floor area. Individuality, originality, maturity, mastery, and artistic quality are the key ingredients for the highest score.