Daily Briefing

Olympics 2016: When is the gymnastics and how to watch it

There are 18 gold medals on offer in artistic and rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline at Rio - and Team GB have a chance

After athletics and swimming, gymnastics is the third biggest sport (along with cycling and weightlifting) at the Rio 2016 Olympics with 18 gold medals up for grabs across three disciplines.

And it is at the gymnastics events that you will find the most agile, supple, nimblest and, let's be honest, smallest, athletes at the Olympics. But what does the sport involve, other than leotards?

There are three strands to the gymnastics - artistic, rhythmic and the trampoline...

The trampoline, what, who can bounce the highest?

Please. Gymnasts have to execute a series of moves in mid-air, on which they are judged, and they then have to perform a one-minute routine of their choosing on the trampoline.

Who's bouncing for Britain?

It's a first for Team GB with two female trampolinists in Kat Driscoll and Bryony Page, while Nathan Bailey will be Britain's first male trampoline entrant since 2004.

Gold medal hopes?

Bailey finished 17th in the world semi-finals so he'll have to find some extra spring in his steps if he's to bounce his way onto the podium. But Page finished fifth at the 2015 World Championships and is an outside bet for a medal.

But back to the artistic and rhythmic gymnastics

Yes. If you're a male artistic gymnast you compete on six apparatus - floor, vault, horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse and rings - while women tackle four - flour, vault, uneven bars and balance beam. There are also medals for all round individual and team performances.

In rhythmic gymnastics the women do their routines to music with four types of apparatus: hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon with judges scoring athletes for form, execution, control of the apparatus, flexibility and choreography. There are two gold medals on offer.

And the men?

Men don't compete in rhythmic gymnastics, although there are growing calls within the sport to introduce rhythmic gymnastics for men in the Olympics.

How does the scoring work?

A panel of nine judges score each gymnast's performance, taking into consideration the difficulty of the routine, the technical quality and its level of execution. The number of spangles on leotards is not involved in the judging process.

Are the Russians coming?

Yes. Russia, one of the powerhouses of Olympic gymnastics, will be sending a near full-strength team after the International Gymnastics Federation made clear it they opposed a blanket ban on Russian competitors

Why are so many female Olympic gymnasts so young?

It's true gymnastics is known as a "one-and-done" sport, or as John Geddert, head coach of the 2012 US women's Olympic team, explained: "Without sounding condescending to young women, this is a little girl's sport. With their body changes and the wear-and-tear everybody goes through, once they become women, it just becomes very, very difficult."

Any examples?

The 4ft 11in Gabby Douglas of Team USA won the individual all-around title and led her country to team gold at the London Games. Now known as a "seasoned veteran", the 20-year-old Douglas is the first Olympic champion to return to the Games to defend her title since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.

Will British gymnasts soar to the heights or crash and burn?

In 23-year-old Max Whitlock Team GB has a genuine gold medal contender. The Englishman won individual and team bronzes in the London Olympics, but as he showed in 2015 in becoming the first British man ever to win a World Championship gold medal (pommel horse), he's continued his development. As for the women, 4ft 6in Claudia Fragapane won four gold medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games (making her England’s most successful Commonwealth Games competitor for 84 years) and the 18-year-old has a slim hope of getting a medal of some colour in Rio.

Where's the venue?

At the Arena Olímpica do Rio , a multi-purpose arena with a capacity of just under 15,000 that has hosted acts as diverse as Miley Cyrus, Motorhead and Ultimate Fighting Championships.

Ones of watch:

Yana Kudryavtseva, Russia: The 18-year-old has dominated rhythmic gymnastics winning the world all-around championship three times and she is expected to take gold in Rio.

Dong Dong, China: He hardly put a foot wrong in London and now Dong Dong is hoping to to repeat his gold medal trampoline triumph in Rio.

Louis Smith, Great Britain: After winning a silver on the Pommel Horse in London, Smith retired from the sport and embarked on a reality TV career. But the 27-year-old is back in the saddle, so to speak, adamant he can win gold in Rio despite his age.

Kohei Uchimura, Japan: The reigning Olympic male champion in artistic gymnastics, Uchimura has won a record six consecutive all-around world titles.

Dipa Karmakar, India: The 22-year-old artistic gymnast won a bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and is the first female Indian gymnast to appear in an Olympics.

When do the gymnasts spring into action?

The gymnastics begins on Saturday 6 August with the men's horizontal bar qualification and continues uninterrupted - except for a break on August 17 and 18 - until its conclusion with the group all-around rhythmic on Sunday 21 August.


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