Many who step into the gymnastics world can feel like they crossed over into a parallel universe where they seem to be talking in English yet so many words are foreign to the ear. Well let me help with a small crash course in women's gymnastics events.
First we will go over what each event is and what makes them unique from each other. Gymnastics is broken down into 4 competitive events for women. Women's events are Floor Exercise (Floor), Vaulting, (Vault), Balance Beam (Beam), & Uneven Bars (Bars).
In Vaulting, the gymnast will sprint down an 85' runway, striking a springboard (a wooden or fiberglass board with springs) and launch themselves hands first toward a vaulting table (a very heavy and padded object) and rebound to perform high flying flips and twists before trying land on their feet without moving once they land. Sounds fun right?
Uneven Bars are about creating a flowing yet exciting routine that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Women have 2 bars (high and low) that are made from fiberglass and wood that they have to jump to or flip between. The also have to circle in toward or around the bars to create an artistic performance that finishes with a flipping release to land on the ground. Bars is about being courageous, strong, and hanging on by your fingertips.
Beam is an event that can be just as heart pounding as Bars (especially for the participant). Think of all the movies where the hero must cross a chasm where only a stone bridge or tree can get you to the other side. Now imagine you must tumble, leap, and turn on one that is only 4" wide. That's Beam. It isn't for the faint of heart or weak of mind.
Floor involves showing off high flying flipping and twisting tumbling passes on a spring floor (the floor literally has springs underneath it) along leaps, jumps and turns. All of this while dancing to a choreographed piece of music.
In competition the "Olympic order" is typically followed. Which is Vault, Bars, Beam, Floor. So if a gymnast starts on Vault, they would compete in the aforementioned order. If they start on Beam, they would go Beam, Floor, Vault, Bars.
If you still feel overwhelmed, welcome to gymnastics. Keep watching when it is on TV. It will captivate you. It is one of the most athletic, technical, and difficult sports in the world. That is why i love it.
Steven (Sam) Marsh
Kokomotion USA Gymnastics