What is it?:
The Level System:
A gymnast is not allowed to skip any levels, but may compete in more than one level per year in every program but men’s artistic. In men's artistic, athletes compete in one level per year.
- Levels 1 & 2: reached her 4th birthday
- Level 3: reached her 5th birthday
- Level 4: reached her 6th birthday
- Level 5: reached her 7th birthday
- Level 6: reached her 7th birthday
- Level 7: reached her 7th birthday
- Level 8: reached her 8th birthday
- Level 9: reached her 8th birthday
- Level 10: reached her 9th birthday
In men’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics an athlete must have reached his/her sixth birthday to compete at any level. In trampoline, tumbling, and acro there are no age minimums.
National competitions are only held at the highest competitive levels (levels 9 and 10) in women’s and men’s artistic, but are held at lower levels in programs with fewer athlete participants such as tumbling and trampoline.
In many programs a gymnast doesn’t enter competition until s/he has reached level 4 or 5.
The Elite Level: After a gymnast has reached level 10 she can attempt to qualify to elite (Olympic-level) competition. Qualifying varies in the different JO programs. In women’s artistic, for example, an athlete must meet a minimum score performing compulsory and optional routines, while in rhythmic gymnastics, a gymnast must place in the top 12 at the level 10 National Championships. The qualifying scores and procedures often vary from year to year as well.
In all programs, though, once a gymnast has reached the elite level, s/he is technically no longer part of the Junior Olympic program. S/he may now be selected to represent the United States in international and other major competitions.