Updated: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:13:56 GMT | By pa.press.net

GYMNASTICS - RHYTHMIC

Rhythmic gymnasts combine grace and artistry to create eye-catching routines in one of only two sports on the Olympic schedule to be performed exclusively by women - the other being synchronised swimming.


A competitor performs with the ribbon in rhythmic gymnastics. (© Press Association)

A competitor performs with the ribbon in rhythmic gymnastics.

Gymnastics - Rhythmic

Rhythmic gymnasts combine grace and artistry to create eye-catching routines in one of only two sports on the Olympic schedule to be performed exclusively by women - the other being synchronised swimming.

The sport is a combination of gymnastics and dance, where competitors perform choreographed movements on a 13-metre square floor to music using apparatus such as a hoop, ball, ribbon and clubs.

Having previously been in the shadow of the long-established artistic gymnastics discipline, the popularity of rhythmic gymnastics slowly started to increase after the sport was given its Olympic debut at Los Angeles 1984 - 20 years after the first World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships were held in Budapest.

An individual competition was staged at the Games for the sport's first three Olympic appearances, with Canada's Lori Fung being crowned the first champion in the individual all-around event.

A group competition, originally contested by teams of six, was then added to the schedule in time for the Games in Atlanta, USA in 1996.

In its current format, both the individual and group competitions begin with a preliminary round before the best gymnasts progress to the final.

In the individual event, competitors perform different routines with four pieces of apparatus and if they make the final the scores are reset.

The group all-around competition sees a team of five perform two routines together - the first involving each member using the same apparatus and the second routine using a combination of two different pieces of apparatus.

A panel of judges score each routine based on an athlete's ability to execute the different technical elements, such as leaps and pirouettes, while using their apparatus, all with the added difficulty of performing in time to the music.

Russian gymnasts have regularly dominated the sport at the Olympics and World Championships, with Yevgeniya Kanayeva claiming six golds at the latter competition in 2011.

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