A gymnastics event is also known as a meet. Depending on the level and occasion, teams will be competing for the highest combined scores, or individual athletes will be competing for the highest scored on individual events. A group of gymnasts will perform one apparatus before rotating to another once they have all finished. Once every athlete has performed their intended routines, athletes will be ranked both by overall scores, and scores on individual events.
Each individual event is scored based on the difficulty of skills performed, quality and form of those individual skills. In elite (or professional) gymnastics, there is a difficulty score out of 10, and an execution score out of 10. The difficulty score goes up based on the level of the skill being performed, usually ranging from five to seven, and the overall execution score is calculated based on deductions made by a panel of judges.
Men's and women's gymnastics consist of unique apparatuses, four for women, and six for men. The four main apparatuses for women's gymnastics are the vault, the balance beam, the uneven bars, and the floor exercise. Men's gymnastics also has the vault and the floor exercise, along with the parallel bars, the high bar, the pommel horse, and the still rings.
A vault in gymnastics consists of a runway, a springboard, and a vaulting table. A typical table is four feet tall and three feet wide, but can be adjusted based on the skill the gymnast is attempting. The gymnast begins at the end of the runway, and runs quickly toward the table, using this speed and the springboard to launch themselves over, doing a combination of several turns and flips. Different gymnasts will have unique entrances and exits on and off the table. The gymnast is judged based on their height and distance over the table, as well as their form in the air and their stability on landing.
The balance beam sits approximately four feet above the ground and is only four inches wide. Gymnasts must focus on remaining balanced atop the beam while performing a combination of turns, jumps, and flips along its surface. They are scored on their ability to perform skills without wobbling, and their ability to stay on top of the beam through their entire routine. Falling off or grabbing the beam to balance themselves results in an entire point being deducted from their overall score. The goal for gymnasts is to appear as if they are performing on an even floor, rather than a small beam lifted off the ground.
The uneven bars consist of two bars, one higher than the other, which are held in suspension and bolstered to the floor. Female gymnasts will move from one bar to the other, using flips and turns to move. They will also do flips inside and outside of the bars, each time returning their hands to the bars and continuing their routine. Gymnasts are scored on the quality of the skills they perform, and the fluidity of their movement. They are also judged on their ability to maintain straight lines while moving above the bar, and their stability on their landing once they dismount. Gymnasts often use chalk in order to give them a better grip on the bar and lessen the likelihood of a fall. Coaches will also stand near the bars to catch any gymnasts who happen to lose their grip.
The floor exercise in gymnastics consists solely of a spring-embedded floor, 40 square feet in size. The gymnast will choose their own floor music and prepare a routine to go along with it. This routine consists of leaps, turns, and several "passes" across the floor where they will combine a unique set of flips and turns. The gymnast is scored based off of their form in all parts of the routine, as well as their ability to stay in the bounds of the floor.
The floor exercise for men is similar to women's with the same size floor and springiness. However, men do not perform routines to music, and their routines consist of more tumbling passes and fewer dance aspects. Their routines are done with less of a flourish and more straightforward tumbling. The athletes are again scored on the difficulty of their tumbling, their form, and their ability to remain in the bound of the floor.
The parallel bars consist of two raised bars parallel to one another, approximately 16-20 inches apart. Athletes swing and flip between the bars, pausing to hold handstands above, trying to remain as stable as possible. They also swing below the bars to propel themselves across them, showing strength both in grip and in movement. It requires skills in timing and hand-eye coordination, so that athletes do not miss a grip on the bar and fall off.
The high bar is similar to the women's uneven bars, consisting of swinging skills and release moves, however, the men's apparatus only has one bar, compared to the women's two. The release moves seen are often high above the bar, and are risky in that it can be easy for the athlete to move too far away from the bar, and miss grabbing it after performing the skill. The bar itself is approximately nine feet above the ground, and only one inch in diameter.
The pommel horse consists of the athlete moving their body circularly around a table approximately five feet long and one foot wide. The table has two handles that athletes can place their hands on or around. This apparatus can be the most difficult as the athlete has to be in constant motion in order to move from one skill to the next. Losing momentum would mean the athlete would fall and not be able to complete a skill. The skills required consists of moving one's legs around the table while remaining above it, and not knocking into it. Judges look for appropriate height above the table and fluid movements until landing back on the ground after the dismount.
The still rings contain a tower about 20 feet off the floor with straps that hang down 10 feet holding two rings. Athletes mount by pulling themselves up onto the rings. A key element of this event is being able to hold oneself up and be stable. Athletes are judged on their ability to hold positions for more than two seconds without wavering or falling out of them. Similar to women's uneven bars, the men hold handstands, and are expected to remain straight and stable with no bend in their body. This event is almost purely dependant on upper body strength, but requires a stuck (or stable) landing as a dismount for optimal scoring, as do any of the events.