Gymnasts train their bodies to perform feats of twisting, turning and flipping that seem impossibly difficult. Gymnastic competitions feature both male and female competitors performing routines on a series of apparatuses, such as the vault, uneven bars and high bar. Level of difficulty is a significant factor in how judges score the routines. The most challenging moves, when successfully completed, can elevate one gymnast above another in the scoring column.
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Male gymnasts on the high bar score difficulty points by successfully executing the Tkachev Salto. The Tkachev is a release maneuver that requires the gymnast to move his body around the bar in an unusual manner. After the gymnast passes the low point in his rotation, he prepares to release the bar and perform a forward somersault. The gymnast's body then glides backward over the top of the bar while he rotates forward. Despite the fact that the move is more than 40 years old, elite gymnasts still find the Tkachev Salto a challenge.
The still rings test the upper body strength and endurance of male gymnasts. Cross positions require the gymnast to hold both arms straight out, all while maintaining near-perfect stillness. Judges expect the competitor to remain in the position for a minimum number of seconds. Of all cross positions, the Maltese is the most extreme. In a Maltese cross, the gymnast's body hangs parallel to the floor with legs extended straight backward.
Arabian Double Front
The Arabian double front is a difficult tumbling maneuver performed by both male and female gymnasts. The gymnast performs a half twist into a double somersault. Typically, the gymnasts execute the move during the floor routine. However, an Arabian double front can be incorporated into several other gymnastics apparatuses, such as the balance beam and vault. The skill rates high on the difficulty scale, and may be performed in any of several positions -- open, tuck, pike or layout.
The balance beam apparatus strikes fear into the hearts of female gymnasts. Flips and twists become much more difficult when performed on a 4-inch beam 4 feet off the floor. Tumbling passes that combine two or more flips in a sequence require the utmost balance and coordination on the beam. The gymnast must not only execute perfect moves each time, but keep her momentum going in a perfectly straight line. A misstep on the balance beam can result in serious injury, as every competitor knows.
The Amanar Vault
Romanian gymnast Simona Amanar debuted the vault that now bears her name at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. The Amanar begins with a round-off flip onto the springboard, a back handspring onto the vault and finally a two-and-a-half twisting back somersault. The skill is performed in the layout position, meaning the gymnast's body is straight and open rather than bent or tucked. The Amanar is an extension of the Yurchenko vault, while also inspiring derivatives like the Podkopayeva, Khorkina and Cheng.