The regulations set out by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) are used as the basis for competition in Australian gymnastics. There are four competition phases: 1. Qualifications, 2. Individual All Around, 3. Individual Apparatus Finals, 4. Team Finals. The FIG Individual All-Around World Cup event recently held in Melbourne showcased Phase 2, the Individual All-Around, and Phase 3, Individual Apparatus Finals, for men’s (MAG) and women’s (WAG) artistic gymnastics.
Gymnastics Australia is the body responsible for selecting which of our gymnasts have qualified to compete in the World Cup. These gymnasts have progressed through the ranks from junior levels, where participation in nominated events allows the young gymnasts to qualify for regional competitions. In turn, performing well at a regional event leads to qualifying for the State Championships, then the best of these athletes qualify for the Australian Championships.
2. Individual All Around
Each gymnast trains on every apparatus. Those who manage to become skilled on all apparatus are then in competition with each other to become the best individual all-around gymnast. Many young gymnasts do well on one or two of the apparatus and have to work harder on the others. These gymnasts may place for a podium finish on an individual apparatus. However, sometimes a more consistent good performance all-around can lead to success.
3. Individual Apparatus Finals
The individual apparatus finals are for the gymnasts who have shown the best skills on each apparatus in the all-around competition. A gymnast may qualify in the final group for one or more of the apparatus, or for none. At junior levels, there may not be a final round, and the scores the gymnast received in the single round of competition serve to give the awards for each individual apparatus.
4. Team Finals
If enough individuals from a representative group have qualified in their own right, then a team score can be calculated for this group in competition. A successful team is often made up of several gymnasts who are highly skilled on particular apparatus, plus one who is good all-around. The team is built on the individual skills of the gymnasts selected for it.
Competition and Gymnastics Clubs
The primary advantage of the structure given in the FIG phases of competition is that each individual is encouraged to be the best that he, or she, can be.
A basic display of expertise in gymnastic skills needs to be attained, in order to qualify to participate in more advanced competitions. The individual all-around competition provides a chance to shine, and also gives a ranking of ability compared with other gymnasts. The individual apparatus finals provides a gymnast with the opportunity to display the best higher level skills she or he has acquired during the many hours of training. Finally, a team is selected from those gymnasts judged to be capable of delivering the highest possible combined score for the organization, or country, which the team represents.
Many Australian gymnastics clubs emphasise that it is being part of the team which is most important. Some gymnasts are not allowed to advance to their own level of ability because club management wish to have a winning team at a lower level. They believe that the accolades are a good business strategy for the club.
Some of our best gymnasts are being actively held back, for the sake of the team.
This is a direct contradiction to the aims contained in the FIG competition structure, which is there to nurture and encourage gymnasts toward excellence in gymnastics.