The biggest of the three Gymnastics disciplines, Artistic Gymnastics has 14 gold medals on offer. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.
Artistic Gymnastics captivates fans every four years at the Olympics and this year will be no expectation, with 14 gold medals on offer and Simone Biles looking to defend four, plenty of attention will be on the nine days of competition.
An Abundance of Apparatuses
Of the eight Artistic Gymnastics apparatuses only two are performed by both the men and women, whilst the men compete in four more, and the women in another two. Each apparatus needs a high level of skill and for gymnasts to master different elements.
Floor – The event occurs on a springloaded carpeted square, with foam and plywood under the surface to keep it firm. The springs allow for gymnasts to generate more power and height to perform moves that were once thought to be impossible.
The men perform without music for 60-70 seconds and are required to touch every corner at least once throughout their routine. They will perform between three to five tumbling passes as well as showcasing non-acrobatic skills such as press handstands.
A women’s floor routine consists of a 90 second choreographed routine to instrumental music. Women will perform up to four tumbling passes with dance elements, jumps and turns connecting the passes into a balanced routine.
Vault – There is little difference between the men’s and women’s vault, both competitions will use an identical vaulting table and springboard. The vault competition has only gotten more competitive from the switch from the vaulting horse to the vaulting table or ‘pegasus’ ahead of the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Gymnasts will sprint down a 25-metre runway before leaping onto the springboard, often performing part of the element ‘on’ to the table, with their hands being the only part of the body that can then pop off the table and perform the main part of the element before landing, with deductions for falls, large step-outs or landings that are too far off centre.
Rings – One of the most dynamic men’s apparatuses, the rings are suspended from a cable wire from a point 5.8 metres off the floor and gives a gymnast the space to hang freely and swing. In each routine at least one static strength move is required, with some choosing to include two or three.
The rest of the routine requires a high degree of control as the gymnast will swing their body without making the rings swing. A routine will end with a dismount move, generating power by swinging their body and releasing, dismounts often consist of twisting or flipping moves.
Horizontal Bar – The horizontal bar is often called the high bar for a reason. A thick steal bar is raised 2.5 metres above the ground with gymnasts often assisted by coaches to reach up to the bar.
A routine consists of 360-degree revolutions around the bar, known as giants, often performed with different grips. Gymnasts will also perform release skills, in which they’ll release and catch the bar performing a skill before the catch, twists and changes of direction.
The dismounts from the horizontal bar are often some of the biggest moves in gymnastics, it will not be unusual to see a triple from the top gymnasts as their final skill on the high bar.
Pommel Horse – The pommel horse is another apparatus that requires a high level of strength and control. A routine consists of a lot of single and double leg work. Single leg skills are most often what is called “scissors” while double leg work consists of swinging both legs in a circular motion, either clockwise or counterclockwise.
There are plenty of variations to the circling skills and gymnasts will often include them to up their degree of difficulty looking to score more points. Unlike most other apparatuses a dismount on the pommel horse is far more simple, typically ending by swinging one’s body over the horse or landing after a handstand.
Parallel Bars – On a set of bars slightly further than a shoulder’s width apart, typically 1.75m off the ground. A routine consists of a series of swings, balancing moves and releases, each requiring strength, balance and coordination. Swings are often performed in a support position, a hanging position and resting on the inner bicep.
Balancing moves are often performed in a handstand or L-sit position, and every routine ends with a dismount, from either the side of the bars or at either end of the bars, performing a high-level skill before landing.
Balance Beam – the first of the women’s only apparatuses, a beam routine lasts from 70 to 90 seconds and consists of leaps, turns, dance elements and acrobatic skills.
The size of the beam ups the ante sitting at 125cm high, 5m long and 10cm wide, it isn’t uncommon for gymnasts to balance check or even fall off the beam executing difficult skills, but they are permitted to get back on and continue with the routine following a fall.
Uneven Bars – Consisting of two horizontal bars set at different heights, the uneven bars adds an extra layer to the men’s horizontal bar. Gymnasts can mount from either the higher or lower bar and will perform swings, pirouettes, transition between the bars, and similar to the Horizontal bar, release moves.
It isn’t uncommon for gymnasts to miss a transition and fall, but they’re permitted to continue with the routine, dismounts will always occur from the high bar with gymnasts building momentum and releasing hoping to ‘stick’ the landing.
Gymnasts receive two scores, a difficulty score, based upon the skills they performed and an execution score, based upon the quality of the skills they’ve performed. Some Gymnasts will rely on high difficulty skills and sacrifice their E score slightly, whilst other’s will lean towards cleaner more simple routines to maximise their E scores.
What is an eponymous skill?
An eponymous skill, is a skill named after an athlete, in Artistic Gymnastics, a skill will be given the name of the athlete to first perform the skill at an international competition.
At Tokyo 2020 you’ll often hear skills on vault referred to as Yurchenko, and dismounts on the horizontal bar as a Salto. One that you’ll definitely hear of in the women’s competition is the Biles.
The USA’s Simone Biles currently has four eponymous skills, two on floor, one on vault and one on the balance beam and in Tokyo she plans to write her name in history once again if she lands a Yurchenko double pike, which is a round-off, back-handspring onto the vaulting table and a double backflip in the pike position.
This is a skill she’s landed at national competitions in June but the Olympics is her first opportunity to perform it at an international competition.
The only eponymous skill that is named after an Australian, is the Mitchell, named after Lauren Mitchell and is a triple wolf turn, one that you will see often in the balance beam and floor routines, as it has become a favoured turn position due as it ups the difficulty score.
Three Aussie Debutants
Australia will be represented by three debutants in Artistic Gymnastics, Tyson Bull, Emily Whitehead and Georgia Godwin.
Bull will likely only compete in a couple of apparatuses and is a bars specialist above everything else. He’ll be aiming to make the Horizontal Bar final but will need to produce career-bests if he to reach the final. The other apparatus we’re likely to see Bull on is the Parallel bars. There’s every possibility he’ll attempt more than two apparatuses but they will be the two that he has the best chance to reach a final in.
The Women are in a different circumstance, there’s every possibility both Whitehead and Godwin will be chasing after that All-Around final as well as apparatus finals.
Whitehead competed with the Australian team at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, at the event she won the Bronze on Vault, it’s the 20-year-old’s best hope of reaching a final, but she might not have the degree of difficulty score that can carry her into the top eight despite her excellent execution scores.
Godwin is in a similar predicament, the All-Around Silver Medalist at the Commonwealth Games, the 23-year-old is Australia’s best chance of reaching the All-Around final but it’s going to be a long shot at that. She could make a run at an Uneven Bars final which she won Bronze at in 2018 but again the low difficulty score is what will likely keep her out of a final despite generally high marks for execution.
Obviously Simone Biles but who else?
It’s not a question of if Biles will win a gold medal, it’s a question of how many, and right now it’s looking like the American will equal if not better her four gold in Rio.
She’ll go in as the favourite for the All-Around, Floor and Vault as will the American team, but a gold on Beam isn’t an unreasonable expectation and there’s every chance she could reach the final on her weakest apparatus, the Uneven Bars. With high D scores and just as good execution, Biles looks like a guaranteed gold medallist.
Her biggest rival in the All-Around stakes is likely Sunisa Lee who despite not having the insane difficulty scores that Biles has is a very reliable performer and has the potential to outscore Biles on Bars and Beam.
Beam will also be the Chinese team’s pet apparatus, several members of the team have been producing high scores, and have multiple members with higher degrees of difficulty than Biles coupled with excellent execution. As far as the team event is concerned they’ll likely have to settle to third at best losing a few key team members to injuries in the past 12 months.
The other team event contenders in the Women’s event is certainly the Russian Olympic Committee, one of the more balanced teams all four members are a strong chance of medalling on different events and they’ll be looking to use the Uneven Bars to get the edge over the American team. Watch out for youngster Vladislava Urazova who will likely emerge as the ROCs shining light and even if she falls off the podium, she’s going to become a one to watch over the next three years ahead of Paris 2024.
The Men’s event isn’t quite as easy to pick a favourite, in the team event there are three obvious contenders in Japan, China and the Russian Olympic Committee, all three will be very hard to split and pressure will be on some of their top gymnasts to perform.
Two-time All Around Gold Medalist Kohei Uchimura will only be performing on the Horizontal Bar and he will go in as the favourite with insanely difficult release moves and improving his execution marks every time he seems to perform.
A gymnast to watch is the Russian Olympic Committee’s Artur Dalaloyan who is returning after rupturing his achillies earlier this year. He’ll be crucial to the Russian team if he can stay fit and is still a chance to make the All Around or apparatus finals.
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