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The Junior Olympic Gymnastics Program

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What is it?:

Junior Olympic gymnastics is a competitive program run by USA Gymnastics (the governing body for gymnastics in the US), for American athletes interested in many types of gymnastics: women’s artistic, men’s artistic, rhythmic, trampoline, tumbling and acrobatic gymnastics.

Participants:

According to USA Gymnastics, there are more than 91,000 athlete members in the JO program. Almost 75% (more than 67,000) are in the women’s artistic gymnastics program.

The Level System:

In the JO program levels range from 1-10, with level one as the introductory level with the most basic requirements and skills. Gymnasts progress at their own pace, and in all programs but acrobatic gymnastics (acro), gymnasts must achieve a minimum score in competition in order to progress to the next level. In acro, it is up to the gymnast's coach to decide when s/he is ready for the next level.

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.

Age Minimums:

In women’s artistic gymnastics, a gymnast must meet the following age minimums to compete:
  • 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.

Competitions:

Competitions are held at the local, state, regional and national levels. Usually a gymnast qualifies to each successive level of competition by achieving certain qualifying standards at a smaller competition. For example, a gymnast who achieves a predetermined score at a statewide competition will qualify to the regional competition.

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.

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