Olympic Preview: Gymnastics

It is one of the most popular sports grouping in the Summer Olympics as Gymnastics have been one of the staples of the Olympic Program. They are all sports that require extreme levels of athleticism. These are the sports that involve some of the best athletes in the Olympics with strength, balance, speed, and control all key aspects to winning medals. These sports have provided some of the best memories of the Olympics for many people. Stories have come out of the Gymnastic sports that will never be forgotten for the lessons of perseverance and strength. Stories like that of Kerri Strug who broke her ankle in her first attempt at the Vault but ignored the pain and landed her second attempt to give the USA women a team title. Of course as with any sport that involves judges the Gymnastics grouping has not been without its share of controversy. There have been plenty of issues in many of the Gymnastic sports with scores many times seeming extremely uneven throughout the Olympics. There have also been countless issues with steroids in the Gymnastics grouping especially when speaking of the Soviet Union and their dominant run in Gymnastics. For all of these reasons Gymnastics has become one of the most popular groupings of sports in the Olympics. It is full of drama and memories but most importantly it is full of unbelievable performances. Gymnastics captures the imagination of fans all over the world as they get to see athletes do things that nobody else could do. It epitomizes the interest in the Olympics as people watch sports to see athletes at the top of their game perform and do things that are seemingly impossible. This year the Gymnasts will again look to impress the fans as many eyes will be on the Gymnastics once again in London.

 

Artistic Gymnastics:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1896

Most Medals: Soviet Union, 182 (72 Gold)

 

The Artistic Gymnastics section of the Gymnastics grouping is the main set of Gymnastics that garners the most interest. It is the traditional version of gymnastics and has been a part of the Olympic program since the start. In London, as with every Olympics, Artistic Gymnastics are split between male and female and are split between the different apparatuses. The Men compete in the floor exercise, pommel horse, rings, vault, horizontal bars, and parallel bars. The Women compete in the floor exercise, vault, balance beam, and the uneven bars. The competition begins with the overall team competition where athletes from each country compete for an overall score. Each athlete competes on each apparatus with the added scores of the team on all apparatuses determines the country that wins the gold. This team competition is also the qualification for the individual competitions. After the team rounds the top 24 overall gymnasts move on to the individual all-around contest. In the individual all-around competition gymnasts compete in each apparatus with scores added up to determine who the best overall gymnast is. The team competition also determines the apparatus competitions as the top 8 scores on each apparatus move on to compete on that apparatus alone for a medal. Countries can only have two athletes representing them in each apparatus with any multiple spots filled by the next best scores. These eight athletes compete in each apparatus to determine who the best gymnast is at that specific discipline. Throughout each competition a panel of judges is the key to success. The first group of judges for each attempt by a gymnast determines how difficult the attempt will be by looking at what the athlete plans on doing. The amount of spins, flips, and the technicality of the trick or tricks each athlete will attempt give a start value that is added given to them before they make their attempt. Throughout the attempt and after the attempt a separate group of judges looks at the execution, composition, and artistry of the attempt. This core is given after the attempt is finished and is added to the start value to give a final score. The person with the highest score at the end of the competition wins the medal. These are some of the most watched events in the Olympics as impressive athletes look to avoid controversy and avoid the slightest mistake to win and bring home a medal for their country in London.

 

Who to Watch:

Beth Tweedle (Great Britain)

– After almost retiring in 2006 Tweedle decided to go for Olympic Gold one more time at home as she will be one of the biggest stars for Britain and is already known as the most successful British Gymnast ever as she looks to add one more accomplishment

 

Jordyn Wieber (USA)

– She will make her Olympic Debut in 2012 as the defending World Champion in the women’s individual all-around along with the defending American Cup and USA champion all in her first year in the senior championship

 

Kohei Uchimura (Japan)

– He is one of the most dominant men’s gymnasts in the world as he has won four world championships, 9 world medals, and won two Olympic medals in 2008 but this year he will look for the Gold in London

 

Viktoria Komova (Russia)

– She will make her Olympic Debut in London but she has already impressed many by winning the silver medal in the 2011 all-around world championship even after a 2010 injury forced her to have knee surgery

 

Canadian Content:

Ellie Black (Halifax, NS)

– She could be one of the best medal hopes for Canada in Gymnastics as she is ranked 7th in the world on the vault and won two Gold Medals, in the vault and floor exercise, at the 2012 World Cup as she looks to earn an Olympic medal in her first Olympic Games

 

Brittany Rogers (Coquitlam, BC)

– She is among the many athletes making their Olympic Debut on the Canadian team but is a medal hope as she is ranked 8th in the world on the vault and won the silver medal in the 2012 World Cup as she looks to earn an Olympic Medal in London

 

Nathan Gafuik (Calgary, AB)

– He will be the only male athlete representing Canada in Artistic Gymnastics and will look to improve on his 17th place finish in 2008 to win a medal for Canada with any hopes of winning a men’s gymnastics medal in his hands

 

Rhythmic Gymnastics:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1984

Most Medals: Russia, 10 (6 Gold)

 

Rhythmic Gymnastics is not the most exciting or the most watched of the Gymnastics grouping but it is a very artistic event. In Rhythmic Gymnastics the competition is less about power and speed and more about control and grace. It is a sport that takes a fine eye to judge as athletes use apparatuses while performing to music. It is a sport that highlights the finer points of gymnastics as it is not the powerful that move on and instead highlights the most graceful of athletes. This is a women’s only sport as men do not participate in rhythmic gymnastics at the Olympics. The athletes compete in both individual and team competitions with a mix of gymnastics, dance, and apparatus manipulation. There are five different apparatus including rope, hoop, ball, clubs, and ribbon. In the individual competition a routine lasts 1 min 15 secs to 1 min 30 secs as athletes perform four routines throughout the competition. Every competitor must use one of five apparatus in each routine meaning they will use all but one apparatus throughout the competition. Each routine is judged by three panels of judges and is scored based on technical ability, artistic interpretation, and execution. After a preliminary round the top 10 athletes move on the finals where they start the entire exercise again with the top score coming out with the Gold Medal. In the Team competition groups of six athletes perform two routines each. In the first routine the entire team must use one of the 5 apparatus and are judged on the synchronicity of the performance along with the other aspects of the score. In the second routine the teams use two different pieces of equipment and are judged in the same way. After a preliminary round the top 8 teams in the competition moves on to the final round where the medals are handed out. The Rhythmic Gymnastics events are based on similar aspects as the artistic gymnastics but they are still very different. It is still an interesting sport in the Olympic program as the ability to manipulate these apparatuses while keeping the technical and artistic quality of the program at a high level is extremely difficult. It may not be the most popular of the gymnastics but it is a great sport with it’s own dedicated following that will be watching closely in London.

 

Who to Watch:

Yevgenia Kanayeva (Russia)

– She is the defending Olympic Champion after winning Gold in Beijing and she heads up a very strong Russian team who look to continue their dominance in Olympic Gymnastics with a big rivalry

 

Daria Kondakova (Russia)

– The three-time World Silver medalist is the main rival of Kanayeva who will press her teammate in London as she looks to win the Gold medal in what looks like a great matchup between teammates

 

Canadian Content:

Team Canada

– The Canadians were not able to qualify any individual gymnasts for the Olympics but they will be there in the team competition for the first time as they look to earn Canada’s first team medal in rhythmic gymnastics

 

Trampoline:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 2000

Most Medals: Canada, 5 (0 Gold)

 

It is the youngest of the gymnastic events only a part of the Olympics since 2000 as it is the baby of the gymnastics grouping. So it makes sense that one of the younger countries in the Olympics is the leader as a traditionally lack luster summer sport country in Canada has been able to take the most medals, although no gold yet. The trampoline competition involves the power of artistic gymnastics and the grace of rhythmic gymnastics. It also marries the athlete and their apparatus as one to perform masterful routines that take control and grace. Being such a young Olympic sport the competition is very simple with only two sets of medals being handed out. Men and women compete in individual competition in front of a panel of judges to earn scores that determine the winners. In the competition each athlete performs two different routines in front of a panel of nine judges that score each routine based on difficulty, execution, and flight time. The athletes perform these routines that are filled with flips, bounces, and somersaults. In the first routine athletes perform a specific set of skills that every athlete performs and is set out by the judges. These skills in the first routine are set in specific order and must be performed in that order to earn a top score. In the second routine the athletes must complete 10 skills that are recognized as official trampoline skills. In this routine the athletes creativity is rewarded as they can put these ten skills in any order they wish. There are no time limits on the routines as athletes can take as long as they wish to complete all the skills required. After the preliminary round of two routines the top 8 scores moves on to the final round. I n the final round these top 8 athletes perform one optional routine where they must perform 10 skills in any order with the top score winning Gold. The trampoline is still a very young sport and is still figuring itself out. There is no real dominant athlete or country with the sport still making inroads in the Olympic program. It is a fun sport to watch though as it reminds people of the backyard trampoline except with much more skill as gymnasts look to take a fun activity to a new level in London.

 

Who to Watch:

He Wenna (China)

– In Beijing the Chinese team followed the rest of the countries athletes dominating the top of the trampoline sports and Wenna was one of the top performers as she won the Gold Medal in Beijing and will look to defend it in London

 

Dong Dong (China)

– Another member of a very successful Chinese team in 2008 Chunlong will enter these Olympics as the defending champion in the men’s trampoline and will look to defend his title in the young sport

 

Canadian Content:

Rosannagh MacLennan (King City, ON)

– She was on hand for the transformative Vancouver Olympics and looks to take the energy from those Olympics to London where she tries to improve on her 7th place finish in 2008 and her silver medal in the 2011 World Championships

 

Karen Cockburn (Toronto, ON)

– She is the most decorated Olympic trampoline athlete ever winning a medal every year since the Trampoline entered the Olympic Program but she is lacking one medal as she looks to add the Olympic Gold to her collection in 2012

 

Jason Burnett (Etobicoke, ON)

– He is one of the most exciting trampoline athletes in the Olympics as he holds the world record for degree of difficulty for a routine in competition and will look to take this excitement to London where he hopes to improve on his silver medal in 2008

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