How Do I Become An Olympic Gymnast?
If you are a dedicated gymnasts, or even someone who is just starting to get interested in the sport, then you likely have seen the Olympic gymnastics with a gleam in your eye and dreams in your head about one day making it to that level.
In order to be eligible to become an Olympic gymnast you must first be at least 16 years old, be a United States citizen, and you must have qualified to the elite level. In addition you must be picked by the committee who is responsible for making this decision and who will weigh the strengths, weaknesses, and experience of all potential candidates.
There are only three of the gymnastics disciplines that have Olympic teams, with the women’s and men’s artistic gymnastics being divided. This being the case, each one has its own specific requirements and ways to make the Olympic team.
Important Things That You Should Know About The Olympics Gymnastics
The U.S. Gymnastics are governed by the United States of America Gymnastics, or USAG for short. While most people are well aware of this, fewer people know that the USAG works underneath the International Gymnastics Federation, which is most often shortened to FIG. The USAG is entirely in charge of gymnastics in the U.S. while the FIG regulates the sport as a whole across all the countries that have official gymnastics.
There is also an important difference in the types of competitions. Every year there are state gymnastics competitions, the winners of which go to the National competitions. The winners of the national competition are considered the United States champion and can then compete in the World Champion competitions against other gymnasts who were the best in their own countries.
These different competitions are completely separate from the Olympic competitions. Each time the Olympics are getting close there will be Olympic qualifying competitions specifically for Elite gymnasts who wish to be on the Olympic team. It is from here that the selection will be made.
As mentioned, only certain gymnastics disciplines have Olympic teams, each of which are picked in a slightly different way. Whichever discipline of gymnastics it is, most people trying to make it to the Olympic team spend an easy 40 hours every week perfecting their skills, often starting at a young age and sometimes even opting to be homeschooled so that they can devote even more energy into training.
Both the men’s and women’s artistic teams are each comprised of five members and a committee goes through the list of possible candidates before picking which ones will be on the team as well as usually up to three alternates for each should one or more of their picks get injured or be otherwise unable to compete.
For the women’s artistic gymnasts the one gymnast that has the top all-around score during the final two days of the women’s Olympic trials competition will be the first one on the Olympic team. The rest of the four candidates as well as the alternates are then picked from among the other gymnasts who competed. While these must have done well in the competitions, they do not necessarily have to be the next in ranking.
If a female gymnast wishes to send in a petition due to being unable to make it to the competition, she must have a legitimate excuse why she could not attend and she must have demonstrated a high level of performance throughout the previous year. This petition will not go directly to the Olympic Committee, but will instead go to the Olympic Trials.
For the men’s artistic gymnastics the top two gymnasts that have the best all-around scores during the final two days of the men’s Olympic trials will be the first two on the Olympic team as long as they both place in the top three scores on all six of the men’s events. The remaining three gymnasts for the Olympic team and the three alternates are then picked by the Olympic Committee.
If a male gymnast wishes to send in a petition due to being unable to make it to the Olympic trial, they must also have a legitimate excuse why they could not make it and must send in their petition to the Olympic trial. However, if that particular gymnast has been on the National Olympics team to compete for the World Cup or was on the previous Olympics gymnastics team, then they may send their petition directly to the Olympics Committee.
The gymnasts that are picked should either be great all-around gymnasts who can do well in every event, or they may be what are called an event specialist which is where they are best at a certain one. Event specialists still must be good at the other events and are usually only added to the Olympic team if the committee in charge of choosing the team feels that the other gymnasts might be slightly less capable in that event.
This is because the team’s scores are all counted as a group in the Olympics, making it possible that if four of the gymnasts are not as good on the vault as they are with the other events, that having a vault specialist can be a good idea to boost the team’s vaulting score.
In rhythmic gymnastics the gymnasts are ranked during the world championships and in other major competitions and the ones who are consistently ranked the highest are given the honor of being on the Olympic team.
For the trampoline gymnastics only one man and one woman are chosen for the Olympic team and must both be 18 years old or more. The trampoline has three selection events for the Olympics, with the top two scores being counted. To qualify for being nominated to the Olympic team, the gymnasts must have participated in the U.S. Championships and must perform at least 20 different skills in the preliminaries with at least a 14.8 degree level of difficulty for the man and a 12.8 degree level of difficulty for the woman in both the preliminaries and the finals.
Becoming An Olympic Artistic Gymnast
To get started as an artistic gymnast you should first find a place to train that is a member of the USAG. This club will preferably have at least a Junior Olympic program if not an Elite program as well. The Junior Olympic program, JO for short, is expressly for getting young gymnasts through the levels they need to do in order to get them to being Olympic material.
The JO training will take a gymnast from being a level 1 gymnast all the way to being a level 10 gymnast. While you are training one of your goals should be to try to get into a TOPs program. TOPs stands for Talent Opportunity Program and is not a program that you can just join, it is a program that a talent scout will have to pick you out for.
Talent scouts from TOPs try to find gymnasts who have a lot of potential and who have the goal of making it to the national team. This program is in many ways like the Elite program and teaches everything at an accelerated rate with far more hours of practice involved than a regular gymnastics program does.
However, you should know that out of the five women in the 2012 Olympics Gymnastics Team, all five went through the TOPs program. This shows that, though being in this program is no guarantee, excelling here is a great start to reaching the Olympic team. Once you reach point, however, the training does not end.
The next step is to get classified as an Elite gymnast. You can become on Junior Elite gymnast if you are between the ages of 11-15 years old, and if you are 16 years or older you can become a Senior Elite gymnast.
In order to get classified as an Elite gymnast there are a couple of things you will have to do after reaching level 10. The first step is often called the compulsory step and to do this step you have to make it to and compete at a regional or national competition and a score of at least a 35.00 AA according to the 10.00 per event maximum.
This compulsory step involves doing the specified routine that is outlined by the USAG. Though there are some variations to this that are allowed, you may not otherwise deviate from the outline. You must also announce ahead of time your intentions of using your routine as the compulsory step towards becoming an Elite gymnast.
However, if you are 16 years old or older you may opt to become a specialist elite gymnast. In this case you can only compete on the either two or three events that you wish to specialize in. You must be able to have a total score of 17.50 if you are doing two events and a total score of 26.25 if you are doing three events.
The second step towards becoming an Elite gymnast is called the optional step and involves doing a routine of your own making. This score is based on the new point method that lets you get more than 10.00 for each event. Your AA total score for your optional should therefore be a 50.00 score or higher.
Once you get the right score you need for your optional routine during one of the yearly classics competitions, then you have passed. If you do not do this within the year, however, you will have to do your compulsory routine again and then do your optional routine.
Once you have reached this stage your goal should be to train, compete, and train some more so that you can get even better in your competitions. If you cannot even place well at nationals, then it is highly unlikely that you will be even thought of as an option for the Olympic team.
Even if you get really good as an Elite gymnast, if you have little to no experience with big competitions then you will quite possibly passed over in favor of a gymnast that has shown they can handle the pressure of these. Therefore, in order to make it to the Olympic team your goal should be to first make it to the Nationals competition and from there to make it onto the Nationals team at least one year.
Making it there before the Olympics is a great way to get noticed, and if you place well in the World championships it will prove that you can handle the pressure of big competitions like it. It will also give you the experience that the Olympic Committee will look for when making their decision.
Becoming An Olympic Rhythmic Gymnast
Like artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics also has different levels of difficulty; however these levels are widely different. In rhythmic gymnastics levels 1 and 2 are simply introductions to the basic concepts, with levels 3-6 teaching the basics of the different maneuvers and how to use the different apparatus.
Levels 7-8 are the advanced levels, with the last two levels of 9 and 10 being sometimes not counted at all and are instead more like the artistic’s Elite gymnasts. However, there is still an Elite category of gymnasts all its own that you must be a part of in order to become part of the Olympic team.
The yearly Rhythmic Elite Qualifier competition not only determines if you qualify for becoming an Elite gymnast in this discipline but it does other things as well. In order to take part in this competition you must be at least a level 9 rhythmic gymnast.
In the Rhythmic Elite Qualifier competition, the top 40 of the level 9 junior gymnasts will be advanced to being level 10s. The top 30 of the level 9 senior gymnasts will also become level 10 gymnasts. The top 25 of the junior level 10 gymnasts will become Elite and will move on to the USA Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, and the top 20 level 10 senior rhythmic gymnasts will also become Elite and will go to the championships.
Besides those, the 15 runner up level 10 junior gymnasts that did not quite make it into the top 25, along with the 30 runner up senior level 10 gymnasts who did not make the top 20, will also go to the USA Championships, only they will remain at level 10. Finally, the top two junior groups and the top senior group from this competition will also be the ones that will be going to the championships for the USA nationals.
Becoming An Olympic Trampoline Gymnast
The trampoline only became on official Olympic event in the year 2000 in spite of the fact that it has had World Cup Championships since the 1960s. This being the case, though it has been around for a while it is still fairly new on the Olympic scene.
In the Olympic trampoline competition the gymnasts are required to complete three different routines each of which must contain at least ten different elements which must be done one after the other without any pauses or blank jumps which do nothing.
With trampoline gymnastics being one of the lesser known gymnastics disciplines, it can be hard to find a place to train for it. Despite this fact, finding a good gym that specializes in this branch of gymnastics is key to making it to the Olympics.
While you can start off with a good gym that simply has the right tools available, it is better to move to a specialized gym as you progress since the coaches there will be more knowledgeable on how to train you properly.
Tips For Any Gymnast To Help You Make It To The Olympics
While these tips and specific things that you can do can never guarantee you a place on the Olympic team, keeping these things in mind and starting to work on them as you progress through your gymnastics level can help you get there. Making these tips into personal habits that are a part of your daily routine is the best thing of all that you can do with them.
Start Training At As Young Of An Age As Possible
While there is nothing you can do about this one if you are already older, if you are interested in gymnastics you should start as soon as you possibly can without waiting any longer. Keep in mind that during the 2012 Olympics that 4 out of the 5 women gymnasts for the Olympic Gymnastics Artistic competition where barely the 16 year old minimum age.
While many Olympic gymnasts are older, most are not too many years above the minimum age. This being the case, you want to at the very least be an Elite gymnast by 16 years old if you want to stand a really strong chance of making it to the Olympics. Since it can take at least 7 years on average to make it that far for someone who is really trying to work their way up through the levels, this means that you should probably be no older than around 10 years old when you start.
Train All The Time, Everywhere You Go, While Having Fun!
Training is perhaps without a doubt the number one factor in becoming a good gymnast, but not all of the training you do needs to be done at the gym, on the gymnastics apparatus at home, or even on a gymnastics mat. Just 15 minutes of practicing at home adds up to nearly 2 extra hours of practice per week.
Training the same specific exercises over and over again can get repetitive to anyone at some point and, though you should still do this part of your training, you can get far better results sometimes if you mix things up a bit. When you are having fun while you are training it can also help you put more of your energy into what you are doing.
One easy way to practice your gymnastics that can be done anywhere you go is to have handstand contests with your family, friends, or maybe even someone that you just met at the pool. This will not only help you work on your handstands, but will also help strengthen your core when you keep holding it as long as you can.
Handstand competitions can also be something that can lead to a lot of laughs should one of the contestants get their giggle box going by something funny. Or, for an added challenge, you could even have a third party try to see how ticklish you each are!
Other options that you can do the same with are: plank hold competitions to see who can hold a plank position the longest, jumping jack competitions to see how many you can do without stopping, leaping competitions to see who can leap the furthest, splits competitions to see how far or how long you can do them, and even hopping competitions to see who can jump straight up and down the longest without stopping, you can even do this one on one foot if you don’t think that simply hopping is challenging enough.
Also, you can challenge your friends to foot races and sprints in particular. The runway for the vaulting event is at most 82’ long, and running down this as fast as you can is one of the key components in getting the power and the height you need for your vault. Therefore footraces are a great, fun way to practice getting the speed for this.
All of the above options are great ways that you can build up your muscles for gymnastics without needing any equipment of any kind, anywhere you are, and while having fun with your friends and family. Each of these can help to strengthen your body and therefore your skills as a gymnast. The jumping and leaping options in particular can be nice to do as you work on jumping higher in your gymnastics routines, but there are other options that you can do too.
If you ever sit down to watch TV, use the time in the commercials to work on your splits, changing the splits you do every time it switches to a different commercial. You could do this same thing with any kind of stretch while doing other things too, like when you are waiting for someone. Everyone knows how well socks can move on kitchen floors, but this can also be a good way to practice those 360 degree turns on one foot.
If you have a play set at home with a monkey bars or you go to a park where there is a bar that will work, you can practice doing things like pull-ups. Other things that can be easy to find are jump ropes which can help with both your jumping skills and your endurance, a trampoline can be a great place to work on your jumps without having to really worry about your landings. You can also practice your jumps off of a diving board if you have access to a pool that has one, and doing this can be particularly helpful when practicing your bar dismounts.
Finally, there are all kinds of games that can be great ways to both let you practice while having fun with others. Some games like Mother May I can have all of the movements be gymnastics ones like cartwheels, handsprings, or anything else you and your friends know how to do. Aside from making a game into a gymnastics one, did you know that there are actually gymnastics games that you can play to help you warm up?
Treat Your Body Right
While exercising is without a doubt very important, you do not want to overdo it and end up injuring yourself. For the same reason neither should you jump ahead and try to do more complicated maneuvers before you are ready for them. While you may be able to rush through the levels and learn the new skills quickly, doing so means that you will not have spent the time you need perfecting the basics and laying the groundwork that you will need in order to really perfect the more complicated maneuvers.
You should also be eating as healthily as you can and especially making sure that you are getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals that your body will need to take care of your muscles and to keep your bones strong. It is far better to take care of yourself right and to take things a little slower than you might want to at times than to go too fast and end up breaking a bone. Even though a bone can heal in several weeks, during this time you may not be able to train at all and you will have to take it easy for months afterwards.