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The origins of Gymnastics go back to the societies of Ancient Greece. For the Greeks exercising was a habit, to keep the body fit, as a preparation for other sports and also for military training. In the early modern period, the activity abandoned its traditional form and started to be practiced with the help of apparatus.
In 1811 in Germany, the sport gained popularity with the introduction of the first open-air school, with the view that Gymnastics was for everybody, regardless of their social position. Training would serve, mainly, to prepare the Germans to face the French in military battles.
After the wars, the importance of Gymnastics as a sport grew in schools throughout Europe. In Germany, however, authorities prohibited the activity - thus helping to spread it across the world. In 1881, the International Gymnastics Federation (known by French acronym FIG) was founded.
Years later, Baron de Coubertin suggested including Gymnastics in the programme for the first Modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896. The sport, considered essential for the Olympic movement, has never been absent since then and has evolved into three disciplines: Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic Gymnastics and Trampoline Gymnastics.
In Artistic Gymnastics, participants show their skills on apparatus such as parallel bars and in presentations of agility and strength, as in floor exercises. Men have participated in Gymnastics since the Athens 1896 Games, and women had their first opportunity to compete in the Amsterdam 1928 Games.
A women-only event, Rhythmic Gymnastics is presented on the floor, accompanied by music, with ropes, balls, hoops, ribbons or clubs. There are both individual and team events - with five athletes per team - and the choice of equipment is determined by the regulations and for each Olympic cycle. Its debut in the competition programme was in the Los Angeles 1984 Games.
Trampoline is the newest of the three disciplines, and was included in the Sydney 2000 Games for men and women. Participants perform movements that are assessed by a jury, which awards points for the best performance in jumps, which can reach a height of ten metres.
One of the oldest Olympic sports, Gymnastics has been part of the games since ancient times, when competitions included wrestling and even fights with bulls. As the men competed naked, women were forbidden not only to compete, but also to watch.
The sport grew in Germany during the 19 th century, as a means of achieving physical fitness and as military training. Spaces to practice Gymnastics began to appear throughout the European continent and beyond - partly because the sport had been banned in Germany, and therefore spread outward.
As a result, two schools appeared at the same time: the Swedish, based on free group exercises, and the German, which used apparatus. In 1881, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG, in French) was founded, and years later the sport was included in the programme of the first Modern Games in 1896, with competitions for men only.
Since its debut in the Olympic programme in 1896, and during the twenties, Artistic Gymnastics evolved: individual apparatus and team competitions for men were introduced in the 1924 Games in Paris, while women began participating in 1928 in Amsterdam, in a team event. Women’s events with the use of apparatus came only in 1952, in the Helsinki Games in Finland.
The Artistic Gymnastics programme in the Olympic Games includes several kinds of events: floor exercises, vaulting, fixed bars, parallel bars, pommel horse and rings. Women compete in floor exercises, vaulting, uneven bars and balance beam. Medals are awarded for individual events, in which the participant competes using all the apparatus, for team events and for each apparatus separately.
The first stage of the competition is the qualifying phase, in which all the gymnasts compete. The eight countries with the best performance among their athletes advance to the team finals, in which three participants perform again on all the apparatus. The final total score determines places on the podium for this event.
The top 24 participants in the overall competition (maximum of two per country) advance to the individual finals, in which gymnasts compete on all the apparatus. Moreover, the eight best gymnasts are ensured a place in the decision for each apparatus.
Points are awarded by a jury of nine judges, who assess the degree of difficulty and the quality of the movements performed in each event. Points are deducted for faults in the performance.
The first demonstrations of Rhythmic Gymnastics derived from Gymnastics group exercises, which involved choreographies. Other influences are classical dance, such as ballet, and the schools of Sweden, based on free routines, and Germany, with the use of apparatus to be fit.
By the 1920s, the sport had already become competitive in the Soviet Union, gaining popularity in schools. In 1942, the country hosted a national tournament, and gradually the sport has spread around the world.
However, Rhythmic Gymnastics had to wait nearly two more decades to be officially recognized by its international federation. In 1961, the sport became one more of the entity’s disciplines, along with Artistic Gymnastics for men and women. Three years later, the first World Championship was held in Budapest, Hungary.
The first Olympic demonstration took place in the Melbourne 1956 Games. In Australia, rope exercises were included in the Artistic Gymnastics programme. Gradually, exercises with hand objects were transferred to Rhythmic Gymnastics.
The sport was finally included in the Olympic programme in the Los Angeles 1984 Games, with individual competitions. In spite of originating in Eastern Europe, representatives from there did not participate due to a boycott by countries from the region. Team events began only in the Atlanta 1996 Games.
Rhythmic Gymnastics is a combination of movement and dance. In individual competitions, each participant makes a presentation in an area of 13 x 13m, with one of the five elements: ropes, balls, hoops, ribbons or clubs.
However, according to the rules of the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG, in French), only four elements are used in each Olympic cycle - from 2011 to 2016, for example, ropes will be excluded.
The same is true of team events, with five gymnasts per team. Each team performs two routines - in 2012, according to FIG, one will use five balls, and the other three ribbons and two hoops.
In the Olympics, the individual competition has two phases: the qualifying phase and the finals. Each gymnast presents a performance with one element, and the top ten advance to the final, in which they perform again, this time with all the elements. The participant who earns most points gets the gold.
The group qualifying phase begins with the presentation using five balls. In the next phase, ribbons and hoops are used. The points for the two performances are added, and the eight best teams go on for the medals, with two more presentations.
Three juries, each with four judges, assess the presentations under the following headings: difficulty, execution and plasticity. During the presentations, the gymnasts and the elements must be constantly in motion.
The latest discipline to join the Olympic Gymnastics programme, Trampoline began in the 1930’s in the United States, based on an invention by George Nissen, a physical education teacher and former college Gymnastics champion. After seeing the safety nets of circus trapeze artists, he had the idea that gave rise to the sport.
With the help of Larry Griswald, his trainer at the University of Iowa, Nissen developed the first trampoline in his garage, and soon it was being used to train athletes in sports such as Diving, Alpine Skiing and Artistic Gymnastics, and even astronauts.
The first championship in the United States with the use of a trampoline was held in 1948, and in 1955 there was a competition at the Pan American Games in Mexico City. Soon, the equipment became popular in Europe and the rest of the world.
In 1964, the International Trampoline Federation (ITF) was founded. Since 1988, when the organization was recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the dream of entering the Games became a reality - and what helped to achieve this goal was the acceptance of the sport as part of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG, in French).
The debut of what is now referred to as Trampoline Gymnastics in the Games occurred at the 2000 Games in Sydney, with an individual event each for men and women.
Each participant performs a series of ten routines, with single, double and triple jumps, with and without somersaults. Movements are assessed by a jury, which awards points based on the difficulty and precision of each presentation, in which gymnasts can reach heights of up to ten meters above the trampoline. Points are deducted from the final score for errors.
The competition has two phases: qualifying and final. Participants execute two free routines in the first stage, with simplicity and perfection in their movements, and another in which they can be more daring with no limit as to difficulty. The top eight competitors then complete for the medals, performing one more presentation with ten movements.