Special Olympic Gymnastics

The sport of Gymnastics in The Special Olympics is split into three group events: Men, Women and Mixed. When competing an athlete may have one area of speciality, whether it is in Floor Exercise or Vault. There are also some athletes that compete in all events.

Men compete in Floor Exercise, Pommel Horse, Ring, Vault, Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bars.

Women compete in Floor Exercise, Vault, Uneven Bars and Balance Beam.

In the mixed events, men may compete against women in Vault, Single Bar, Wide Beam and Floor Exercise.

Competition is divided into the following six levels:

Level A is for athletes that have ambulatory problems. They are given compulsory routines.

Level B is for athletes who can’t perform in Level 1.  They are also given compulsory routines.

Level 1 is for Beginner compulsory routines.

Level 2 is for Intermediate compulsory routines.

Level 3 is for Advanced Routines or for athletes that have their own routines with their own connections

Level 4 is for Optional or Voluntary Routines.

Artistic gymnastics may not also compete in rhythmic gymnastics in the same competition.

Rules of Special Olympic Gymnastics are slightly altered for athletes with different disabilities. The one rule that is the same for all impairments is that the coach of the athlete must notify the judge of the impairment before the athlete begins.

If an athlete with a visual impairment is participating in gymnastics, clapping is allowed to tell the athlete that they can begin. The coach of the athlete is also allowed to carry the source of the music around the perimeter to help the athlete. In vaulting a visual impaired gymnast has a choice of no run but instead bouncing on the board while keeping a hand on the horse. They may also choose to hold onto a guide rope alongside the runway.

If the athlete has a hearing impairment then during the women’s floor exercise the athletes coach or another athlete may signal for them to start their routine.

If an athlete has an ambulatory impairment the coach is allowed to walk onto the floor and remove or replace walkers.

Athletes that compete in gymnastics whether male or female must wear a leotard. There are alternatives though. A male gymnast can wear a leotard with long gymnastic pants. T-shirts are also permitted providing they are tucked in. Female gymnasts can wear either a leotard or a unitard which can either have long or short sleeves or be sleeveless. Bare legs or leg coverings that match the colour worn by the athlete are also allowed. Flesh colour tights with bare feet are also allowed for female gymnasts. 

Male gymnasts can either wear socks, gymnastic slippers or be bare-foot while competing.


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The equipment used is very broad. Some of the apparatus that the athletes use includes uneven bars, parallel bars and the high bar. These can be adjusted to suit individual athletes. If bars can’t be lowered sufficiently, extra mats may be used to raise the floor.

Different sized balance beams are used for the different levels of competition. The beam used for Level A measures at 6 inches wide and is 4 inches above the mat. The beam may be covered in suede cloth, or indoor/outdoor carpet.

Level B and Level 1 use the same size balance beam which measures 4 inches wide and 16 feet long.

Physical Benefits of Gymnastics

  • Resistance Training improves joint mobility, cardiovascular fitness, circulation, muscular development and growth.
  • Physical activity can avoid or delay the onset of asthma and juvenile diabetes.
  • Can also help prevent various types of cancer.
  • It enhances the development of bone density and avoids osteoporosis.
  • Physical fitness also delays the inception of high blood pressure.

Cognitive Benefits of Gymnastics

  • Awareness of the Human body.
  • Alertness of space and where the body is.
  • Alertness of relationships between body parts in relation to each other and surrounding apparatus.
  • Alertness of relationships with others.

Psychological Benefits of Gymnastics

  • Strength of mind and self discipline.
  • The fun and joy of movement mastery.
  • The habit of doing exercise as a pleasurable regular occurrence.
  • A confident self image and positive behaviour towards their own body.
  • Trust in one’s own capabilities.

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If you are looking for books or DVDs on gymnastics, clothing, shoes, hats, or equipment, we have them here.  Instead of having to wade through Amazon's huge catalogue, we have created and refined product lists for you.  If you buy items through these links, we will earn a small commission from the sale, and it will be at NO extra cost to you.

You may buy from either shop regardless of your location, but extra delivery charges may apply if international delivery results.


Rhythmic gymnastics video:




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