London 2012: Gymnastics
Tell me about gymnastics:
Gymnastics promises to be one of the most entertaining sports each Games, and London will be no different. A combination of strength and grace set gymnastics apart, and the sport has provided some of the most memorable Olympic moments in both triumph and disappointment.
A total of 196 gymnasts, 98 men and 98 women, compete in 14 medal events. The individual apparatus in the men’s competition are floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bars. The ladies compete with floor routines, uneven bars, vault, and balance beam.
What’s up with the scoring?
Gymnasts have a few chances to medal in this competition, with awards for best teams, best all-around performances and individual events. Scores are given by a panel of nine judges based on several factors including difficulty of the routine and execution.
The tiniest mistake, like a wobble or extra step, can be costly to a gymnast’s score. Based on degree of difficulty, gymnasts start at different possible scores, which are then decreased with each error.
How do players qualify?
All gymnasts first compete in a qualification round. From there, the best eight teams go on to the team final round, where three gymnasts from each team are selected to compete in each event. In this round, teams are ranked by their total score.
After the qualification round, the best 24 gymnasts also compete individually in the Individual All-Around final, competing in every event. The top eight from each event go onto the individual apparatus finals.
The four phases of competition are the initial qualification round, Team finals, Individual All-Around finals, and the Individual Apparatus final.
International players to watch:
The Chinese teams are always contenders in gymnastics if not the teams to beat. In 2008, the Chinese men’s team took seven of eight gold medals up for grabs and took the team final title. Zou Kai leads the men’s Chinese team. Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura is the first man to claim three consecutive world all-around titles and finished second all-around in Beijing. He is the favorite for the all-around title in London.
Viktoria Komova is a star on Russia’s team, and she is expected to leave London with multiple medals. Russia took sliver at the 2011 World Championships behind the U.S. Russia failed to medal as a team in Beijing, and the team will be back in a big way looking for redemption in London.
Americans to watch:
The U.S. women’s team is full of young talent this year, and several competitors are slated to medal. Gabby Douglas pulled an upset over Jordyn Wieber to win the U.S. Olympic Trials. The 16-year-old shines on the uneven bars and is definitely one to watch. She even trains with the same coach as Shawn Johnson (Liang Chow). Wieber, 17, was the all-around gold medalist at this year’s World Championship and, with Douglas, is the U.S. frontrunner. Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney and Needham native Aly Raisman round out the five-member team, which is slated to be a contender for gold.
The men’s team hasn’t been able to top the standards of its international opponents in the past, and they aren’t a favorite for gold in London. Jonathon Horton, 26, is the only returning Olympic gymnast from the bronze medal Beijing team. They’ve overcome their share of adversity, as team leader John Orozco has recovered from a torn Achilles’ tendon in 2010. Danell Leyva did win the parallel bars event at the 2011 Worlds, so they aren’t to be counted out just yet.
Talk like an Olympian:
All-around – competitions that feature all events, such as balance beam, floor, vault, and bars
Rings – an event in men’s gymnastics that takes place on two rings that are suspended 280cm from the floor.
Salto – a type of flip or somersault in which the athlete rotates horizontally.