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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.