U.S. national gymnastics teams face more difficult roster decisions than usual ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
This is because the Olympic gymnastics rosters are contracting for the third time in the last four Olympics. As a result, only four men and four women will qualify for the team competitions at the Summer Games, making the final cups difficult ahead of the event.
The United States women’s team will face a particularly hair-raising cutting process. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles is a benchmark for the team as she hasn’t lost an all-around competition since 2013. Jordan Chiles, Suni Lee and Jade Carey all have a good chance of succeeding as well.
However, many other competitors will be vying for a spot in Team USA’s gymnastics qualifiers this week. They include Emma Malabuyo, Leanne Wong, Grace McCallum, Skye Blakely, MyKayla Skinner, and Kara Eaker. In a normal year, at least one of these women would make it to the squad, but with just four spots available on the squad, they could be ousted or pushed into another role.
Why did the Olympics decide to cut gymnastics numbers from five to four for the Tokyo Olympics? And do the organizers plan to continue the practice? Here’s what to know about the controversial decision, and how and why it happened.
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Why has the size of Olympic gymnastics teams been reduced?
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) approved the downsizing of the Olympic gymnastics teams in May 2015. The then FIG president, Bruno Grandi, had two objectives in effecting the change, for Liz Clarke of the Washington Post.
First and foremost, Grandi wanted to emphasize the versatile performers of gymnastics, as he felt that the sport “drifted too much towards specialists” who focused on excellence in one field. Second, Grandi believed that reducing team sizes would allow smaller countries to compete with larger countries that traditionally have more depth.
The dissidents, including the coordinator of the US women’s national team, Martha Karolyi, argued that some of the best gymnasts in the world would not be selected due to the rule changes.
“It will hurt the show, what gymnasts can provide to the whole world, and eliminate some of the strongest gymnasts in our country,” said Karolyi, by NBC Sports. “Even when the team was six, we had to leave home with strong players. I don’t really feel happy about that, but decisions will be made, and we’ll be with any kind of decision. C ‘ve done in the past, even if something doesn’t seem very smart or very good, but once the rules are set for us, we’ll go with it.
Grandi had a lot of power in the gymnastics world in 2015, so he was able to push through the changes and implement them for the Tokyo Olympics. The decision was approved by 29 votes to 7 with one abstention.
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Why are some countries getting additional Olympic gymnasts?
It was also the work of Grandi. He instituted a program that has enabled countries to earn up to two additional Olympic places per nation through performances at various world and continental championships.
Grandi did this to counter the argument that fewer of the best gymnasts in the world would be allowed to compete in the Olympics due to roster size restrictions.
But athletes who gain these additional places are only allowed to participate in individual events and are not part of the team competition. They even have to wear different colored leotards to clarify that they are not part of the team for the team event.
In addition, the qualifying metrics used to determine these additional places were deemed “too confusing” and will be abandoned by gymnastics federations in the future. They will still be in effect for the Tokyo Olympics, but the sport will revert to teams of five for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
“It was also crucial for us to put in place a qualification system for Paris 2024 that everyone can understand while being fair to the best athletes,” said current FIG President Morinari Watanabe in a press release from May 2019.
As such, the idea of Grandi, now retired, will be short-lived.
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Sizes of the Olympic gymnastics list by years
Since America’s “Magnificent Seven” team Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps and Kerri Strug won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, sport has steadily reduced the number of gymnasts participating each year. .
In fact, the size of gymnastics teams has declined in three of the last four Olympics and has almost halved since 1996.
|Year||To place||List size|
|2016||Rio de Janeiro||5|