Men’s artistic gymnastics (often shortened to simply men’s gymnastics), is the oldest form of gymnastics, and a popular Olympic sport. Men have competed in gymnastics since the 1896 Athens Olympics, though it often featured track and field events along with the traditional men’s apparatus.
Similar to women’s artistic gymnastics, athletes must be at least 16 years old by the end of the Olympic year in order to compete. Male gymnasts are often older than their female counterparts, however, since the men’s events require strength that is sometimes difficult to develop until after puberty.
Top male gymnasts must have many qualities: strength, air sense, power, balance, and flexibility are some of the most important. They must also have psychological attributes such as the ability to compete under pressure and the courage to attempt risky tricks.
EquipmentMale artistic gymnasts compete on six pieces of equipment:
- Floor Exercise: The gymnast performs a routine no longer than 70 seconds, usually consisting of 4 or 5 tumbling passes, a balance element or strength move, and sometimes circles and flairs similar to those seen on the pommel horse. The floor mat is 40 ft. by 40 ft. and is usually made of carpeting over padded foam and springs.
- Pommel Horse: The gymnast swings around the pommel horse on his hands, without letting any other part of his body touch the horse and without stopping during the routine. He uses the whole length of the horse, and performs circles, flairs, scissors, moves up to handstand and back down, and a dismount.
- Still Rings: The gymnast completes swinging moves, handstands, strength moves, and a dismount on rings suspended approximately 9 ft. from the ground. Unlike the pommel horse, a gymnast must stop and hold his strength moves for at least two seconds. During this time, the rings should be as still as possible.
- Vault: The gymnast runs down a runway, hurdles onto a springboard, and is propelled over a vaulting “table” about 4 feet off the ground.
- Parallel Bars: The gymnast performs swings, release moves, pirouettes, and a dismount using two horizontal bars set at the same height. The bars are about 6.4 ft. from the floor and made of wood or plastic.
- High Bar: The gymnast performs pirouettes, high-flying release moves, swings, and a dismount on a single bar, 9 ft. off the floor. The bar is smaller in diameter than the parallel bars, and is made of metal.
The Competition: Gold, Silver, and BronzeOlympic competition consists of:
- Preliminaries: All individual athletes and teams compete. The scores from this one competition determine who qualifies to team finals, all-around finals and individual event finals.
Those trying to qualify as a team put up five athletes on each event, and four of those scores count. There are six total athletes on each team. Teams that score in the top eight qualify to team finals.
Also during preliminaries, the top 24 athletes in the all-around (the total of all six events) qualify to all-around finals. No more than two gymnasts from each country may qualify, however. This leaves athletes on strong teams such as China and Japan competing with their own teammates in preliminaries in an effort to become the number one or two all-arounder on the team.
Finally, the top eight scorers on every apparatus during preliminaries qualify to the individual event finals. Again, only two gymnasts are allowed per team.
- Team Finals: Team finals are the next competition following preliminaries. Though the scores from preliminaries are erased at this point, the teams are seeded. The top two teams compete in the same rotation; ranks three and four compete together; and so on. The top two teams get to compete in the Olympic order of events (floor, pommels, rings, vault, parallel bars, high bar), generally considered the ideal progression to compete.
Each team puts up three of their six athletes on every event, and every score counts. Since only the scores from this final round are used when deciding the team medals, this meet is a real pressure-cooker. Even a low score is counted in the final result, and can take a team completely out of the medals.
- Individual All-Around Finals: The all-around final competition comes after team finals. Each of the 24 qualifiers from preliminaries competes on all six events. Though the scores from preliminaries are wiped clean, the athletes are again seeded. The top six compete together in one group; slots 7-12 compete in another group; and so forth. Like team finals, the top group has the advantage of competing in the Olympic order.
- Individual Event Finals: Finally, an event champion is named on each apparatus. The top eight scorers from preliminaries all compete that one event, and the top score of that day gets the gold. (Again, no scores are carried over from preliminaries). There is no seeding in event finals. The order in which the athletes compete is a random draw.
Find out about men’s gymnastics rules and judging
Women's gymnastics basics