USA Gymnastics is the official governing body of United States artistic gymnastics. Also called USAG, it sets level requirements for its Junior Olympic Program that change year by year. For the Elite program, USAG follows the rules of the International Gymnastics Federation. In USA Gymnastics, you must progress level by level. You cannot skip levels, regardless of age.
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Junior Olympic Segment One
Under the Junior Olympic Program, women’s gymnastics calls the first three levels the Development Levels. Girls can begin Level 1 and 2 at age 4 and Level 3 at age 5. Gymnasts at Level 4 have the choice to continue training for recreation at Level 4, or begin competing under the compulsory rules at Level 4. Men’s gymnastics calls these levels the Basic Skills Achievement Program, and a gymnast can begin BSAP at age 5. Beginning gymnasts train on all apparatuses but often on modified equipment. The vault is not actually the iron horse but a soft mat block. Before trying the men's high bar or women's uneven bars, gymnasts practice on a unisex low bar.
Junior Olympic Segment Two
In women’s gymnastics, Compulsory Levels begin at Level 4 or Level 5, per the gymnast’s choosing, and go up to Level 6. The program gets its name because all gymnasts perform the exact same routines at competitions. A gymnast must be at least 7 years old to compete in this program. A gymnast must pass Level 4 with a 75 percent proficiency to advance to Level 5 and achieve an all-around score of 31.00 to proceed through Levels 5 and 6. Boys follow the Age Group Competition Program for Levels 4 through 10. Levels 4, 5 and 6 are more basic, following compulsory routines. Level 7 is the bridge between basic and advanced, where gymnasts begin to create their own routines based on event-specific skills. While considered part of this second program, in Levels 8, 9 and 10, men compete in optionals, fulfilling most of the International Gymnastics Federation requirements.
Junior Olympic Segment Three
Beginning with Level 7, female gymnasts perform optional routines to their own choreography while including the required skills per level. Levels 7 and 8 do not allow a gymnast to perform skills past the difficulty requirements. For Levels 9 and 10, USAG lifts the difficulty cap. A gymnast can compete at Level 10 after she turns 9. While they do not follow the same segmentation, men’s Levels 8 through 10 are about equivalent in difficulty to women’s Levels 7 through 10. Level 10 gymnasts end the program at the Junior Olympics National Championships.
The women’s and men’s Elite programs are divided into Junior and Senior programs by age For women, Junior Elite serves ages 11 to 15, and Senior Elite serves ages 16 and beyond. For men, a gymnast must be age 12 to 18 to compete as a Junior Elite and must be at least 16 to participate internationally as a Senior Elite. At this stage, gymnasts are training five to six days a week with “their” Olympics in sight, meaning the first Olympics in which they meet the age requirements. Elite gymnasts compete at such well-known events as the USA Championships, the World Cup and the Pan American Games.