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Rules of the Game: Gymnastics

One big change for the 2020 Olympics is that the number of gymnasts in the team competition is reduced from five to four.

The official name is artistic gymnastics, but most people just call it gymnastics – the sport that brought us names such as Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Gabby Douglas, Nastia Liukin and, of course, the incomparable Simone Biles.

For artistic gymnastics, there is one big change for the 2020 Olympics. The number of competitors taking part in the team competition has been reduced from five to four. This will bring a new strategy for teams who may no longer have the luxury of including someone on the team who is exceptional at only one apparatus.

Women compete on four apparatuses.

  • Uneven Bars
  • Beam
  • Floor Exercise
  • Vault

Men compete on six apparatuses.

  • Floor Exercise
  • Horizontal or High Bar
  • Parallel Bars
  • Pommel Horse
  • Rings
  • Vault

In addition to the four people competing on the men's and women's teams, the U.S. has qualified one additional individual competitor for the men and two for the women.

The Olympics starts with a qualification round. This determines who will qualify for the team round, the individual all-around and the individual event finals. The qualification scores are just to determine who advances and will not be part of the final competition scores.

Longtime fans remember when the top score one could receive was a “perfect 10,” with Comaneci the first to achieve it. But since 2005, scoring has been more open-ended. Now, a score is given for how difficult the move is. That is added to an execution score, which looks at artistry and performance.

In the team event, the accumulated team score determines the winner. Three gymnasts per team compete on each apparatus, with their scores all counting toward the total.

In the individual all-around, each of the 24 gymnasts per gender who qualified compete on all the apparatuses with their total score determining their standing.

In the individual event finals, the top eight gymnasts per gender who qualified on each apparatus will compete in a one-round final, with the highest score winning.

A male gymnast could win a total of eight medals while a female gymnast could win six.