Olympic Preview: Artistic Gymnastics

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

First Olympic Appearance: 1912 (men); 2000 (women)

by Mike Morrison and Mark Zurlo

Did You Know?

The word gymnastics comes from the Greek word gymnos, meaning naked, and referring to the dress code (or lack thereof) of the athletes back in ancient Greece.

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Always one of the most popular summer Olympic sports, gymnastics has given us some of our most memorable moments and personalities in recent Olympic history.

In 1972, Russia's Olga Korbut helped take our minds of the horrors going on in Munich and in Vietnam. In 1976, Romania's Nadia Comaneci recorded the first perfect score in Olympic gymnastics history, then proceeded to record six more for good measure. In 1984, American Mary Lou Retton dazzled us with her smile and spunk, and in 1996, it was the "Magnificent Seven" and Kerri Strug's gutsy vault that ensured the gold for the United States.

So the burning question this year isn't necessarily, "Which country will win the gold?" but rather, "Which gymnast will become the darling of the London Olympics?"

While rhythmic gymnastics are performed with an apparatus (ropes, hoops, balls, etc.), artistic gymnastics are performed on an apparatus. Men compete in floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bar, and women in vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor. There is also an all-around competition for each gender.

Performances are rated by two panels of judges — one panel consisting of two judges that rate the difficulty of the performance, and the other panel with six judges that rate the athletes' form and technical execution.

In London, 98 men and 98 women will compete for gold at the North Greenwich Arena.

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