There are four events in women’s gymnastics — vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. Women’s gymnastics is one of the most beloved sports in the Olympic Games. Every four years a new star is born as the Olympic all-around champion is crowned. Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin all achieved this prestigious title! This discipline requires incredible strength and flexibility. Although most sports have seasons, gymnastics is a year-round commitment for athletes at the upper levels.
A successful vault begins with a strong, accelerated run. The best vaulters explode off the board with tremendous quickness during the preflight phase of the vault. When the gymnast pushes off the vault table, the judges are looking for proper body position and an instantaneous repulsion. Watch for the height and distance traveled, as well as the number of flips and twists. Gymnasts strive to “stick” their landings by taking no extra steps.
The most spectacular of the women’s events, the uneven bars demand strength, as well as concentration, courage, coordination and split-second timing. Watch for the big swings that begin in handstands on the high bar, incorporating multiple hand changes, pirouettes and release elements. The entire routine should flow from one skill to the next without pauses, extra swings or additional supports. Watch for the high flying dismount where the gymnast will attempt to stick her landing.
The beam is only four inches wide and considered the most difficult event by many gymnasts. The gymnast must use acrobatic, tumbling and dance movements in her routine. Watch for acrobatic series consisting of two or more elements performed in a row. The overall execution should give the impression that the gymnast is performing on the floor, not on a beam. Watch for variations in rhythm, changes in level, and the harmonious blend of dance and acrobatic elements.
Usually a favorite event for the fans, the floor routine must be choreographed to music and cover the entire floor area. The gymnast must use a variety of dance and tumbling elements which reflect her personality. Most gymnasts at the international level will do four tumbling passes, changing both the direction and level of movement throughout the routine. Watch for powerful, yet graceful, routines that are fun and exciting.