Dominique Dawes' Guide to Watching Gymnastics

Watching the Women's Individual All-Around competition tonight? The former gold medalist offers a cheat sheet on her sport’s rules, maneuvers and slang

(Dave Black/USA Gymnastics)

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Dismount – the exit from an apparatus at the end of a routine (typically involving a twist or somersault)


Difficulty Score, or Start Value - A numeric value is placed on a gymnast’s routine prior to his or her performance. It is based on the degree of difficulty of the routine. The more difficult the skills performed in the routine, the higher the start value.

Code of Points - The Code of Points is the official rulebook that defines the scoring system for judging gymnastics skills. A gymnast can receive bonus points if he or she executes a combination of difficult skills. A gymnast can receive zero if he or she fails to perform a necessary element of a routine.

Olympic Order - The order of competition for women is vault, uneven parallel bars, balance beam and floor exercise. The order for men is floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar.

Game Changers

2001 - The “vaulting table” apparatus replaced the “vaulting horse” apparatus. Due to its longer and wider top surface, the vaulting table allows for better hand placement.

1980s - The distance between the high bar and the lower bar in the women’s uneven parallel bars event began to increase, allowing for the execution of more complex moves.

Athletes to Watch
McKayla Maroney (USA):
This world vault champion suffered a concussion and nasal fracture at the Visa Championships in June. She recovered for the Trials and placed first in vault. @McKaylaMaroney
Gabby Douglas (USA):
Nicknamed the “Flying Squirrel,” this 16-year-old excels on the uneven bars. She won the all-around title at the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials. @gabrielledoug

Jordyn Wieber (USA):
Wieber lost the Trials by just 0.1 points. Her strong international experience, including five straight major all-around competition titles, makes her a formidable force. @jordyn_wieber

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