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New 4+2 Olympic Gymnastics Format Will Generate Interesting Competition for Tokyo 2020 Spots

Posted on 21 September 2016 by admin

Now that Rio 2016 is in the history books, we’re changing our focus to Tokyo 2020.  Now official, Men’s and Woman’s gymnastics will be based on four-member teams plus a potential maximum of two event specialists.  Since the qualifying round will be a 4-up/3-count format, the four-member teams will likely consist of four all-arounders.   The two “event specialists” will compete in the qualifying round to vie for Finals spots on specific events and/or the AA.

When announced back in May 2015, the new format ruffled a lot of feathers.  F.I.G. Technical Committee President Steve Butcher argued against it, but has made it perfectly clear he is committed to supporting it and implementing it to the fullest.  Many believe it will water down the quality of the Team competition, as all four gymnasts will have to compete on all six events.  Proponents claim that it will open up more opportunities for countries with fewer gymnasts.  Countries with Team competition ambitions will have two opportunities to make the field of 12 teams.  The top 3 teams at the 2018 World Championships will automatically qualify for the Olympics, and the remaining 9 teams will earn their spots at the 2019 World Championships.

The purpose of this article is to briefly outline and explain how the format pertains specifically to the American Men’s Program.  Assuming our team will earn automatic qualification in ’18 or ’19, the U.S. will have three options to earn up to two additional team spots.  The least attractive option will be attempting to qualify an individual apparatus specialist at eight World Cup Apparatus events.  These gymnasts don’t have to compete at all eight events, but they do need to compile enough points to achieve the top ranking.  The three best results on each apparatus out of eight World Cup events will determine the winner.  Only the top-ranked gymnast on each apparatus will gain automatic qualification for Tokyo via this option.  This option is nominative, which means the actual gymnast receives the Olympic spot, not the country (team).

The most attractive option will be participation in the three-to-four World Cup All-Around events planned for late ’19 and early ’20.  The AA portion is very cut and dried.  The U.S. would only be able to send one athlete at a time, but it does not have to be the same gymnast each time.  Points will be earned at these events to determine the top three federations.  If the U.S. makes the top three, they will earn one extra gymnast for the Olympics.  Any of the athletes we send to these events can be part of the World Championship team the year we earned an automatic Olympic team berth.

The next best option for the U.S. will be the 2020 Pan American Championships.  The U.S. will send a contingent of 2-4 gymnasts to compete in the AA.  If any of our gymnasts place in the top two, then the U.S. will earn an additional Olympic spot.  In this continental championships scenario, none of our contingent could have been part of the World Championship team the year we earned an automatic Olympic Team berth.  An interesting footnote is that the Pan Ams have never before taken place in an Olympic year prior to the actual Games.

Assuming the U.S. earns two extra spots, the U.S. would then proceed business as usual to the U.S. Olympic Team selection process–P&G Championships and the Olympic Trials.  The Selection Committee would then choose a four-man Team, plus two Event Specialists.  The four-man team would likely consist of at least four all-arounders.  The two Event Specialists could then end up attempting to qualify for the Finals on an unlimited number of events, including the AA.  Bottom line, though, the U.S. men will not be guaranteed six spots.  They could end up with either four, five or six.

The F.I.G. has already published a qualification document, but there are still many unanswered questions.  We hope these questions can be answered soon.  Retirement decisions may then either be hastened, delayed or changed, because it’s reasonable to assume the new format will create some interesting opportunities.  One thing is certain–the competition for the four U.S. Team spots will likely be more clear cut, because four all-arounders will likely be chosen.





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