Spectator's Guide to Women's Gymnastics

Dec. 29, 2004

The Basics

Six gymnasts perform on each of the four events (vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise). The five highest scores per event comprise the cumulative team total. Although a perfect score is 200, top teams score above 190.

Individual optional routines, put together by the gymnast to express herself through the skills she performs the best, have a starting value of only 9.5. An additional five-tenths of bonus can be earned, one-tenth by performing a “D” element or two-tenths by performing an “E” element. Also the gymnast can get one-tenth by performing a special connection of skills. The remaining points can be earned by additional D/E elements or special connections. The maximum start value is 10.0.


Uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise are judged using a rating system that evaluates each element on the following scale:

A – easy part
B – part with partial difficulty
C – part with higher difficulty
D – part with very high difficulty
E – part with highest difficulty

Routines require the following to start from a 9.5 value:
3 “A” elements, 3 “B” elements and two “C” elements.

Special Deductions:

*Out of bounds (floor exercise), -0.1 each time
*Overtime in balance beam routine (over 1:30), -0.2
*Undertime in balance beam routine (under 35 seconds), -0.2
*Fall off apparatus, -0.5 each time
*Wiggles or wobbles on beam, -0.3
*Two steps on landing, -0.2
*Insufficient artistry of presentation, up to -0.3
*Relaxed posture throughout the exercise, up to -0.2


Vaulting requires speed, quickness and explosive power. The gymnast is allowed to perform only one vault. Vaults have assigned maximum difficulty ranging from 8.6 to 10.0. Deductions are taken for technical errors in four phases: first flight phase (the approach), repulsion phase (contact with the vaulting horse), second flight phase (height and distance from the horse), and landing. Specific deductions include up to 0.5 for body position faults, 0.1-0.4 for steps off landing, up to 0.3 for an off-center landing, and not receiving a score if the coach assists the athlete at any time during the vault. Some common vaults in collegiate competition include:

1/2 on, 1/2 off front layout – 10.0
Roundoff back handspring, 1/2 turn front layout – 10.0
Handspring front pike, 1/2 turn – 10.0
Handspring front tuck, full turn – 10.0
Tsukahara layout, full twist – 10.0
1/2 on, 1/2 off front tuck – 9.9
Handspring front pike – 9.9
Handspring front tuck, 1/2 turn – 9.9
Roundoff back handspring layout – 9.8
Tsukahara layout – 9.8

Uneven Bars

This event combines the gymnast’s strength and agility as the gymnast must maintain a flowing and consistent rhythm. A bar routine must include a mount, two release moves, a directional change and a dismount. Bonus points are awarded through spectacular release moves and dismounts, along with performing difficult elements in a series.

Balance Beam

The balance beam is 16 feet long, four feet high and only four inches wide. Performing on the beam requires precise movement and intense concentration. A beam routine should be between 70 and 90 seconds long and include a tumbling series, a leap series, a combined tumbling and leap series, a mount and a dismount.

Composition Requirements:
* Full turn
* Large leap or jump
* Element close to the beam
* Acrobatic series with two or more flight skills
* Dance series or acrobatic/dance combination
* Minimum of a “B” level dismount

Floor Exercise

This is the “glamour” event in women’s gymnastics that combines tumbling, dance and interpretation of music. Floor routines must contain two tumbling passes (one with two flips), a series of three leaps and a series with tumbling and leaps all choreographed to music. Floor exercise has become not only one of the most beautiful of athletic events, but one of the most daring and exciting as well.

Composition Requirements:
* Dance series with three elements
* Acrobatic/dance combination series with three elements
* Two tumbling series with one having at least two saltos
* Three different saltos within two tumbling series
* Minimum of “B” level dismount

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