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Gymnastics 101: the basics

For those who have never stepped out on the balance beam themselves or aren’t consistent gymnastic viewers, the rules of the game may be confusing.

So for those who plan on cheering on our Wildcats against ASU this weekend, here is some knowledge of the sport so you don’t feel so lost.

First of all, there are four events that women perform: vault, uneven parallel bars, balance beam and floor exercise. For men’s gymnastics there are six events: vault, parallel bars, pommel horse, horizontal bar, still rings, and floor exercise.

Since Arizona only has a women’s team we will stick to those four events.

Vault is when the gymnast runs full force and hurdles onto a spring board then rotates around in the air, finishing in a straight standing position. Easy, right? Not so much.

Uneven parallel bars is where the gymnasts have to fly from low bar to high bar and vice versa while not touching the floor and keeping a straight body position. Then they must flip off the high bar, do some tricks and stand upright on the bars for a good score.

Moving onto balance beam, which may appear a little more manageable from a spectator’s point of view, but that’s not the case. These gymnasts have to do backwards flips and spins on a beam that is 10 centimeters wide while looking poised and “pretty”. Then once they give the judges a little flair, they dismount off of the beam while once again trying to stick a landing.

Last but not least is the floor exercise, where the gymnasts have 90 seconds of previously choreographed movement to wow the judges. This allows for gymnasts to show more of their personality. Artistry, difficulty and performance quality are accounted for with scoring.

The scoring goes like this. There are six girls chosen each meet to compete on the four separate events. It does not have to be the same six girls but some girls will be on more than one event or all events as an all-around gymnast. Six girls perform, but only the top five scores will be totaled with the other events for the teams overall score.

Scores for each individual are 1 to 10 and are broken down into five-tenths increments. For example you can’t score a 9.73 but you can score a 9.75.

The teams overall score is out of 200 points so if you added the five scores from the four events and everyone scored perfect 10s that’s what you would get, but that’s also impossible. Generally a very good score for a team is 196 and above.

-Kendra Kautz is a gymnastics beat reporter. She can be reached at or on Twitter @KendraKautz