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Summer Olympics: Key Terms for Artistic Gymnastics

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Gymnastics is typically one of the most watched sports among those contested in the Summer Olympics. Its popularity makes is a fixture on NBC's prime-time Olympic coverage every four years. Things will likely be no different with 2012 London Olympics.

Casual fans watching gymnastics for the first time will encounter some terminology unique to the sport.

This guide offers some of the more common gymnastics terms:


One of the pieces of equipment used in certain gymnastics events. Common types of apparatus used by female gymnasts include uneven bars, vault and balance beam. For male gymnasts, types of apparatus used include the pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and the horizontal bar.


A common movement in the floor exercise. Handsprings are executed when the gymnast takes a running start, jumps forward and springs off their hands going either forward or backward and then lands on their feet.


A salto is executed through a flip or somersault where a gymnast rotates around the axis of her hips.


A move used mostly on the pommel horse. It is a mixture of swinging motions and undercuts used to make the left leg and right leg switch positions.


When the gymnast turns completely over while airborne without touching the apparatus with her hands, she executes an aerial move.


A release occurs when a gymnast removes her hand from the bar to perform anything from somersaults to twists before grasping onto it again.


When a gymnast executes a combination of movements or maneuvers on one apparatus, it is called a routine. These routines are designed to allow the gymnast to demonstrate a full range of motion and athletic skills.


When a gymnast leaves an apparatus at the conclusion of their routine, she dismounts or releases herself from the apparatus. The dismount is performed with an acrobatic element maneuver as a twist or salto.


If a gymnast completes a landing on the mat following a dismount without taking any steps, he or she sticks the landing. Completing a landing without taking any steps can be tough to do if it follows a complicated dismount.


Points or fractions of points taken from the total score due to errors. Most deductions are predetermined. This includes a 1-point deduction after suffering a fall from an apparatus or a 0.1-point deduction for stepping out of bounds on the floor exercise.

John Coon has covered gymnastics as a sports reporter for many publications and wire services. He and his girlfriend have also been past season ticket holders for University of Utah gymnastics meets.

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