Strongly influenced by modern ballet, rhythmic gymnastics is a combination of sport and art. In competition, athletes demonstrate balance athletic skill, music interpretation and artistic expression. Only female athletes compete and their performance is judged against specific movement and performance standards.
Rhythmic gymnasts compete with four of five sets of exercises set to music on a 13 m x 13 m gymnastic carpet. Athletes compete individually or in groups of five before three panels of judges. One panel judges technical content, one evaluates artistic requirements, and a third panel rates execution of skills. The judges look for variety, continuous flow of motion, maximum extension and precision of movement.
The exercises include fundamental body movements coupled with connecting movements. Fundamental movements are jumps and leaps, balances, pivots, flexibility and waves. These movements are assigned different levels of difficulty classified as A,B,C,D, E, etc. with a value from 0.1 to more than 1.0 point. Connecting movements are travelling, skips, hops, swings, circles, turns and rhythmic steps. They do not carry a difficulty value, but instead play an important role in the choreography of a gymnast’s composition. These elements are combined with the manipulation of rhythmic gymnastics competitive equipment (rope, hoop, ball, clubs or ribbon) to correspond with the rhythm and character of the accompanying music.
1. Rope: The rope is made of hemp or other synthetic material, while its length is matched to the height of the gymnast. The compulsory body movement group for rope is jumps/leaps, whereas skips and hops through the rope, as well as throws and catches, small tosses, rotations and different handlings of the rope represent technical groups specific for rope.
2. Hoop: The hoop is made of wood or plastic. It has a diameter of 80-90 cm, and weighs at least 300 g. All four fundamental body movement groups (leaps/jumps, balances, flexibilities and waves as well as turns) are compulsory for hoop. The gymnasts’ technical skills are judged by her ability to roll, toss, rotate and execute elements over and through the hoop as well as swings, circles, and figure eights with the hoop.
3. Ball: The ball is 18-20 cm in diameter and weighs at least 400 g. The fundamental group of body movements for ball pertain to flexibility and waves. The technical groups include throws and catches, bouncing and rolling over the body or on the floor, as well as a variety of ways of handling the ball.
4. Clubs: Clubs are made of wood or plastic, weigh a minimum of 150 g each and are 40-50 cm long. The two clubs are considered as one apparatus and are one of the most difficult apparatus in rhythmic gymnastics. The fundamental group of body movements for the clubs are balances. The most characteristic manipulation of the clubs are rotations and mills, small circles, tappings, asymmetrical movements and various throws and catches.
5. Ribbon: The ribbon consists of the stick and satin cloth. The stick, from which gymnasts hold the ribbon, is plastic, while the length of the satin ribbon is 6 m. The fundamental body movements compulsory for ribbon are pivots. Snakes, spirals, throws and catches, as well as small tosses, boomerangs and large throws make the ribbon one of the most impressive apparatus to watch.
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