Gymnastics is one of the most demanding sports out there. This is why most aspiring gymnasts start out really young, because their bodies get worn out pretty early. Thus most gymnasts often tend to retire in their early twenties, which is usually the age in which athletes from other sports are starting to reach their peak. Due to this, competition is usually fierce among the gymnasts as they have to take as many chances as they can get, before their bodies eventually give in. Thus gymnasts are usually strict when it comes to their careers and some of their coaches tend to be even stricter. Some of the rules that they have to follow while performing their routines during competitions are also quite unbelievable, with some bordering on the ridiculous.
Women’s gymnastics has always been more popular than the men’s version and tends to be one of the most watched events during the Olympic games. As for the female gymnasts, they often have to deal with some crazier rules compared to the males, with some of them relating to fashion and beauty. Here are 15 ridiculous rules that female gymnasts have to follow.
15. They Can’t Adjust Their Clothing Until Their Routine Is Over
For most people, wedgies are the stuff of nightmares. They make one extremely uncomfortable in one of the most unfortunate areas and often make you want to reconsider your purchases in terms of the size of your underwear. They can also cause someone to break out in a rash, which may lead to excessive itchiness and may result in a number of health problems. Thus, it’s only natural that when you get one, you have the urge to take care of the situation as soon as possible. This doesn’t apply to gymnasts though. Considering the fact that they usually perform their stunts while wearing a leotard, chances of said leotard going up one’s butt are quite high.
Thus some of the gymnasts tend to use a particular sticky spray to keep their leotards in place. Their reason for doing this is because one gets their points deducted when they pick a wedgie while in the middle of their routine. Wonder who had the cheek (pun intended) to come up with such a rule.
14. Can’t pick their own nail polish
Gymnasts don’t have the freedom of picking the color of their nail polish for themselves during major competitions, thus what you end up with usually depends on what your head coach likes or doesn’t like. Apparently, the Team USA head coach isn’t partial to bright red, bright blue or pink and purple and tends to prefer something more subtle. Thus the gymnasts often end up applying the lightest variations of the colours that are permitted and probably the nude shades too. Not sure why the red and blue are out of the question, considering they’re flag colours. In fact, with the USA team donning leotards containing nearly 5000 crystals each, you’d think flashy nails wouldn’t really be a problem no?
13. You can’t get away with a wardrobe malfunction
When it comes to fashion, females have always had the advantage of having a wider range of styles to choose from, compared to the males. However, all those low-cuts, bare backs, slits and clingy materials are often accompanied by a minefield of underclothing limitations. Thus it’s always important to find the appropriate underwear for each outfit, meaning everything has to be held in place, without any peeking taking place. This also applies to the female gymnasts who often tend to have more style options while picking their leotards for the individual events, but have to be very careful and make sure their underwear doesn’t show because that leads to points getting deducted. So they usually wear nude underwear, made by the company that makes their leotards, who probably know best what would work for the gymnasts.
12. Following crazy diets to the point of jeopardizing their health
As you may have noticed, gymnasts are usually skinny and they are expected to stay that way. While this is usually to increase their agility, it occasionally veers towards a dangerous path. Some gymnasts tend to cut down a bit too much on the food in order to keep up with the weight expectations, which is very unhealthy considering how many calories they burn on a daily basis. While some do this of their own volition, others are usually advised to do so by their coaches. Earlier this year, a former gymnast revealed that she was advised to work out on a treadmill while wearing trash bags, in order to increase sweating and help her slim down. She was also weighed three times a day and advised to avoid water so as not to look bloated. Considering how young gymnasts usually are, this kind of advice tends to affect them psychologically and may continue to do so long after they retire.
11. McKayla Maroney’s ‘Treatment’ As A Teenager
This has been the year of past inappropriate misconduct towards women coming to light. We’ve seen many celebrities get outed for such miscdonduct and it’s spilled over into sports. Maroney has recently alleged that she was abused as a teenager by a gymnastics doctor.
A reality that athletes have to follow at the Olympics is when they’re selected onto an Olympic team, they have to undergo treatment and care provided by the doctor selected by the Olympics association. Maroney recently revealed from the age of 13 to 20, she was a victim of misconduct by Dr. Larry Nasser under the guise of ‘treatment’.
10. They Must Stay Calm Even When Falling, Or Injured
With all the crazy flips and stunts that gymnasts have to perform, they have to accept the inevitable, which is that they’re going to make a mistake at times and this may result in a fall or a slip. This may result in injuries and are bound to cost them quite a number of points, but that’s not the worst part. Gymnasts are expected to maintain a calm demeanour regardless of the situation. While the rest of us can afford to do all we can to brace ourselves for a fall, gymnasts are not even supposed to flinch if their routine goes wrong. So regardless of the height in which they’re falling from, gymnasts are expected to still be graceful in order to avoid losing more points on top of the ones they’ve already lost for making a mistake in the first place.
9. Long practice hours
In order to become a professional athlete, one must be willing to put in the time. The nature of sports is such that athletes end up retiring at a relatively young age as their bodies burn out faster. Gymnasts usually have a shorter career span compared to other sports so it’s essential for them to work extra hard from a very young age in order to maximize their achievements within a small time frame. Gymnastics is a sport that is all about precision when it comes to executing a routine as even the little mistakes could end up costing an athlete some vital points. It thus requires a bit more effort when it comes to training, with some gymnasts even having daily seven-hour workouts especially during the major competitions.
8. Only Two Gymnasts From Each Country Can Qualify For Finals
What a dumb rule. So even if you came third or fourth, but had two of your compatriots occupying positions above yours, you won’t be able to progress to the finals. The rule has proved to be a thorn in the flesh of the dominant teams. None however, have felt it like Team USA have in the last two Olympics. In the 2012 London Olympics, Jordyn Wieber, the then world all-around champion failed to qualify for the finals of the same event despite being a favourite for the title. She’d finished fourth, but was behind two of her compatriots. There was more heartbreak at the 2016 Rio Olympics when Gabby Douglas, who had won the all-around gold in London four years prior, was locked out of the same finals after finishing third, because it was Americans who’d claimed the top two positions.
Not sure if the rule, (which the FIG introduced in order to promote inclusivity and increase the sport’s popularity in other countries) will ever be scrapped, but it’s clear who’ll be happiest if that were to happen.
7. They’ve got to pay up in order to appeal their score
Gymnasts may sometimes disagree with the score they’ve been given and they have the right to challenge the decision made by the judges. They can’t do it for free though. If they want to appeal, their coach must first approach the judging panel and make a verbal challenge, between the posting of the score and the next gymnast’s routine. The coach must then submit their inquiry in writing, within four minutes and pay a fee of $300.
Apparently, if a gymnast’s score is challenged on a second event, the fee goes up to $500 and if there’s a third inquiry, then it’s $1,000. The judges then use video to review the routine and if they made an error, the gymnast’s score is adjusted and the fee is returned. However, if the appeal is rejected, the money goes to the International Gymnastics Federation. The reasoning behind this is that coaches won’t be tempted to challenge the scores whenever possible. Appeals have proved important for some gymnasts, who ended up receiving a medal with their revised scores.
6. Toes must be on point
After all the rules relating to fashion and the weird regulations, we now get to the nitty-gritty. This of course refers to the complicated system that judges use to award and deduct points, shedding some light on just how strict the rules are for gymnasts and why us common folk couldn’t last a day in their shoes. While we usually tend to be awed by a slick routine, the judges are always looking for the mistakes. This is why we usually find ourselves bemused when the knowledgeable commentators point out the errors in the routine and the judges end up deducting points from it. One of these errors occur when a gymnast fails to point her toes while on the bar and on leaps and jumps on floor and beam. A gymnasts gets a 0.10 deduction each time she has unpointed toes.
5. No Breaks Allowed
When it comes to gymastics, an athlete can’t just show up and perform a routine that hasn’t been properly rehearsed, as this could end up being dangerous due to the numerous stunts involved. A gymnast has to make sure that she’s perfected her routine well in advance, as the execution requires the highest degree of accuracy. One of the reasons why meticulous planning is important is the fact that gymnasts are usually expected to complete a series of tricks during their routine without taking a break between them. These breaks are known as missed connections and according to the rules, consist of a stop or a step in between, or obvious loss of balance, or obvious preparation before the next trick. So even when a gymnast makes a mistake she must carry on without pause in order to avoid point deductions.
4. Points Are Deducted For Prepping Before A Trick
On top of the physical practising, gymnasts also require some mental preparation before attempting their stunts. Performing stunts is akin to taking a leap in the dark because one wrong move could end up resulting in some pretty disastrous consequences. So it’s only natural that gymnasts would take some time to prepare themselves before a routine. However, this also has its limitations because gymnasts are not allowed to take a long pause before attempting a trick. If it’s a pause before dismount from the beam, or in the corner before a tumbling pass on floor, then it’s a deduction of 0.10 each time. An additional 0.10 can also be deducted each time on floor if you, wait on two feet two many times, or take small shuffling steps to adjust your position before you tumble.
3. Know when to keep their legs together (or apart)
During a routine, gymnasts are supposed to be careful not to separate their legs when they’re supposed to be together, as this is considered to be a form error. This mostly occurs in a bars dismount or a tumbling pass, whereby separating the legs usually helps the gymnast to rotate faster. Form errors can also occur when a gymnast bends their knees, in anticipation of landing, when they’re supposed to be straight. However, gymnasts can also lose points when they don’t separate their legs to the required extent. This occurs in split jumps and leaps whereby the legs are supposed to hit 180 degrees or more. Failure to do so leads to a 0.10 or 0.30 deduction, depending on the angle of the leap.
2. No wobbles
According to “The Code of Points”, which is the rule book for gymnastics competitions, wobbles refer to any additional movements to maintain balance. This includes a little jerk to the side, a serious break in a gymnast’s body line and interruption of her routine as she attempts to stay on the balance beam. The balance beam has always been tricky and while falling off will definitely rob a gymnast of some much needed points, she has to be just as careful while on it so as to avoid any swaying. This is because wobbles are always accompanied with deductions of 0.10 for the little ones, 0.30 for the medium ones, and 0.50 for the big ones, which are usually the most noticeable.
1. No awkward landing
Landing is one of the most important parts of a gymnast’s routine. A gymnasts could perform a near perfect routine, successfully complete her tricks even if their level of difficulty is high, but if she screws up the landing, it could end up costing her some valuable points. When it comes to landing, there is little leeway if anything goes wrong, with falling down being the worst case scenario. However, there are other forms of landing errors, which judges mostly look for in a dismount or a tumbling pass. These include, steps out or slight hops, which come with a 0.10 deduction for each one, landing with legs or feet part, also gets one a 0.10 deduction each time, or landing bent over with a low chest, which can be a 0.10 or 0.30 deduction depending on how low the gymnast goes.
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