An overview of Womens Artistic Gymnastics (WAG)

Olympic Order of Apparatus: Vault (VT), Uneven Bars (UB), Balance Beam (BB), Floor Exercise (FX)

Vault (VT)

This piece of apparatus is common to both Womens and Mens Artisitc Gymnastics. To perform a vault, the gymnast runs down a 1 metre wide x 25 metre long carpet runway. This is the first phase of the vault performance, referred to as ‘The Run’.

The next stage of the vault performance is called ‘Pre-Flight’, this is the moment from when the gymnasts movement transitions from contact with the springboard to the third stage ‘Contact’ with the vault table.

The fourth stage ‘Post-Flight’ can be performed in different body positions, and cen range from simple skills over the vault table to incorporating saltos and twists. The best vaults are explosive off the springboard and when pushing off the vault table.

Judges watch for proper body alignment, form, quick repulsion, the height and distance travelled, as well as the number of saltos and twists. Generally, the more saltos and twists, the higher the difficulty value of the vault. In addition, gymnasts should "stick" the final stage of the vault performance ‘The Landing’ by taking no extra steps.

Uneven Bars (UB)

The uneven bars are sometimes called the "uneven parallel bars," "asymmetric bars" or simply the "bars."

The bars are parallel to each other and can be adjusted and set at different heights, with the low bar ranging between 1.4 and 1.8 metres, and the high bar ranging from 2.1 to 2.5 metres, however at senior competitive standard the dimensions are fixed.

The most recognizable skills on uneven bars are release moves, pirouettes, and circles.

The entire routine should flow from one movement to the next without pauses, extra swings or additional supports. The most daring parts of the routine are often in the high-flying release moves and dismounts. Release moves can go from low bar to high bar, from high bar to low bar, or from releasing one bar and re-grasping the same bar. Many gymnasts also use pirouetting into release moves to earn a high difficulty value. Exact handstand positions are expected with large deductions for even minor deviations.

In a pirouette, a gymnast turns on her hands while in the handstand position. She may use a variety of different hand positions during the turn.

Circles, such as giants and free hip circles, are exactly like they sound: The gymnast circles the bar, either stretched out in a handstand or with his or her hips close to the bar.

There are three phases to bar routine, the first phase being ‘The Mount’, where the gymnast starts the second phase, ‘The Routine’, by catching the bar with a simple hop or a more complicated jump, flip or catch. Good form is important throughout the bar routine and judges will be looking for straight legs, pointed toes and an extended body in handstand positions.  The final phase is termed ‘The Dismount’ whereby the gymnast lets go of the bar, performs one or more flips and/or twists and lands on the mat below. Both height and distance from the bar are judged. The goal of every gymnast is to stick the landing on his or her dismount. That is to land without moving her feet.

Balance Beam (BB)

Simply referred to as ‘Beam’ the apparatus is 10cm wide, measures 5 metres along its length and stands at approximately 1.25metres in height. Although the beam appears to be hard, modern beams are slightly sprung and covered in leather or suede material.

There are many types of skills on balance beam, including leaps, jumps, turns, holds and acrobatic moves. However, it takes great deal of courage and concentration to perform difficult tumbling and dance skills on beam. Gymnasts often dread the event because a fall off the apparatus means a full point deduction.

In a leap, the gymnast propels herself off of one foot, performs a split at some point in the air, and lands on one foot. The gymnast must hit a full split (180 degrees or more) to avoid deductions. More difficult leaps include ring leaps, twisting leaps (with a turn during the leap) and switch leaps, where the gymnast starts on one leg and kicks the other leg forward then back into the split position.

Jumps are similar to leaps, except the gymnast takes off from two feet and lands on two feet. Ring jumps, sheep jumps, and twisting jumps in various positions are commonly-seen jumps at the elite level.

Every gymnast must perform at least one turn -- a skill in which the gymnast pirouettes on one foot at least 360 degrees around (a full turn). The more revolutions a gymnast does the more difficult it is, so double and triple turns are rated more highly than full turns. Gymnasts also can add to their difficulty score by performing turns with their free leg high in the air, or in a crouch position low to the beam.

Holds include scales and handstands. There are many fewer holds in beam routines today than in the past, simply because gymnasts don't have time to spare doing hold moves -- they want to pack in as many skills as they can of high value, and these skills take up more time than others and are generally of lower value.

Acrobatic moves encompass a wide variety of skills, ranging from walkovers to handsprings to flips, performed forward and backward. High-level gymnasts do acrobatic moves in combination, and some of the toughest combinations being done involve full-twisting back flips in the tucked or stretched position.

Floor exercise (FX)

The final piece of apparatus in WAG is the floor exercise simply referred to as ‘Floor’, the performance area is 12x12 metres with a 1 metre run off perimeter making the overall dimensions 14x14 metres.

The floor provides a gymnast an opportunity to express their personality through the choice of music (at senior levels) and choreography. Throughout the routine, the gymnast must harmoniously blend dance elements and tumbling while making versatile use of floor space, changing both the direction and level of movement.

The floor routine is choreographed to music, lasting no more than 90 seconds and covering the entire floor area. There are predetermined skill requirements which vary by the level of gymnast, such as leaps and turns, and tumbling passes.

The floor routine poise, beauty, strength, power and stamina to continue at peak performance throughout the entire routine and the gymnast must maintain energy and excellence, which can be challenging because of the demanding content in the exercise.