Monday, October 13, 2008



The Wonderful World of
Gymnastics Compulsories

I've always thought that you are a truly addicted gymnastics fan when you will happily sit and watch the Olympic compulsory routines on YouTube. Sitting through the same routines (including the dinky floor music) over and over again really signals true dedication to your sport in my opinion.
Compulsory routines, for those of you not acquainted, were prescribed routines, set by the FIG technical committee competed in the first day of preliminary competitions at each Olympics (and other competitions) Team and all-Around scores were determined by the combined results of both the compulsory and optional routines. The routines were often more simple than the optionals of their times, but demanded excellent execution, artistry and exacting style from the athletes. Different countries took in turns to design routines for different apparatus and coaches and gymnasts often thought of the compulsories as far harder for them that the optional competitions.

Compulsories were last competed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta (That's an edit. I'm a spaz at the moment!) after the FIG decision to abolish them was put in place.

Opinion was divided over the removal of them. Countries like China, the U.S.A and Russia wanted to keep them because they helped maintain a high level of excellence in the sport.

Others believed they made it difficult for countries with smaller, less financed gymnastics programs to to compete in major competitions while benefiting the big names.

Some didn't like them because they believed only certain body types benefited the more artistic compulsories, which relied on great extension and long lines. Some want to bring it back.

Others, like Dwight Normille, IG Online editor, claimed it would make a great change after the patchy and lacklustre men's AA competition in Beijing.
Personally, I don't know what to think. But I do know that I absolutely love watching the old set routines. So here is a list of reasons why the compulsories can actually be thoroughly entertaining.

The choreography of the routines was often really, really pretty. The acrobatic tricks were less difficult, but often more interesting and rarely used in other competitions. The floor routines were dance-y and fun and it was exciting to see dance legends like Sveta Boginskaya or Henrietta Onodi come up with the goods on a compulsory floor. It is almost breathtaking at times. On the other hand, because different countries were responsible for creating the various routines, it was interesting to see what they came up with to benefit their gymnasts.

It levelled the playing field in a way. With everyone doing the same thing, you can really play the game of comparisons, seeing which gymnasts were better at what, without the benefit of choreography tailored to suit their strengths. Like, for example, when i first saw and compared Bogey and Onodi on floor, I belive Onodi comes out on top in compulsories. She was stunning.

You could tell who hadn't been doing their homework. Apparently the compulsories were set after each Olympics, so gymnasts had a long, long time to practice them. But that doesn't mean they did! Watch the 1996 Compulsories and see the U.S.A fall apart on the beam. You have to wonder if they were putting in the hours. They weren't the only ones either. A lot of gymnasts were tripped up by their compulsories.

You begin to understand and appreciate how difficult it was to be an incredible all-around gymnast back in the day, having to come up with the goods on all four apparatus, both in compulsory and optional competition over two days. Phew!

The judging was way harsh, and if you are a bit of a sofa gymnastics judge, here is an amazing way to get some practice in. The scoring for compulsories was notoriously nit-picky and low, as the judges really had to work to differentiate the quality of the performances. See if you can be as finicky and pick up on the faults!

(By the way guys, if i don't post as often over the next week, please forgive me. In fact, if you are going to curse anyone, curse the two evil little bastards who snuck through the restaurant (i live above one) and stole my computer from my room while I was out. As well as losing my music, photos, my writing and my Masters thesis, i also lost my collection of gymnastics pics and quotes and bits for my blog. Bear with me. I am getting a new computer and we will be back to normal. Meanwhile i hope karma comes back and wallops those kids.... HARD.)


  1. I'm very sorry to hear that! I'm working on my Honours thesis at the moment and would be devastated if I lost all my hard work!

    I hope it all works out for you, I'm really enjoying your blog. Keep it up when you can!


  2. omg that sucks about your computer! i hope you get a new one asap, i always look forward to reading your new posts!

  3. The 96 olympics were in Atlanta, not Barcelona, that was 92.

  4. I’ve always loved Compulsories – I think the 1988 Compulsory floor is one of my favourite floor routines ever! I still spend ages watching compulsories on youtube and wishing that they’d bring them back, which I doubt will ever happen…

    I hope you get your new computer really soon!

  5. I think you mean 1992 in Barcelona. Sorry to hear about your computer!

  6. Two clarifications:
    "Compulsories were last competed at the 1996 Olympics in Barcelona after the FIG decision to abolish them was put in place. "
    The 1996 Olympics were in Atlanta Georgia. Barcelona was 1992

    "Watch the 1996 Compulsories and see the U.S.A fall apart on the beam"
    This is was true in 1992, not 1996. The 1996 beam compulsories were decent and helped to the team's over-all lead

  7. See? This why I need a computer! I won't be in the school library all scatty and distracted and get my Olympics confused when i have been able to recite where each was held since I was ten!!!

  8. Love your blog and thanks for posting despite what those sucky people did to you. Best on the thesis and look forward to your posts as always!