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Changes to the 2020 Olympic Gymnastics Games

The Magnificent Seven Turned Into the Fierce Five, Then the Final Five, and Now the Future Four?


In May 2015, the international governing body officially announced the decision to cut the number of athletes participating in the 2020 Olympic Gymnastics games in Tokyo from five to four for each team. After the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) passed this controversial change, gymnasts and gymnastics fans all over the world were left shocked and disappointed. Some claim that FIG is out to ruin the sport while many others feel this new change will greatly improve and benefit the US in the 2020 Olympic games.  


“If something happens to one athlete, and another athlete you brought in is really helpful on one event but can’t help one another, you’re in trouble,” explained the high-performance coordinator for the U.S. women’s national team, Tom Forster.


FIG had been planning to pull through with the cut for a while before releasing any information to the public. They kept quiet until May 2015, where they confirmed the official cut from five members to four in the 2020 Olympic gymnastics teams. The size of each country’s gymnastics team has steadily shrunk over the years: The seven-person gymnastics team from 1996 went down to six in 2000, then down again to five in 2012. Now, there will be four-person teams in Tokyo.


Are you kidding me?!? Changing the 2020 gymnastics Olympic team to 4 girls instead of 5? What's next? A team of one member? What a shame,” Alexandra Raisman, a competing gymnast in the Olympics, tweeted.


However, it’s not exactly that simple. For the Tokyo Olympics, in 2020, a country will actually be able to bring six gymnasts: a four-person team plus two individual gymnasts. All six gymnasts will compete in the qualification round, and they will all be eligible to advance to all-around and event finals. Only the scores of the four gymnasts designated as that country’s team will count towards qualifying for the team final.


FIG declared on their website that this rule change will actually help countries like the U.S. Many times over the last year, gymnastics fans have lamented the fact that U.S. has such a deep bench of talent that they have to leave medal-worthy gymnasts at home because there were only five spots on the time.


“Since six is greater than five, the new system actually creates opportunity for gymnasts from deep countries who might not be selected for a five-person Olympic team,” FIG explains in a FAQ on their website. The number of total gymnasts per Olympics has stayed the same: 98 men and 98 women.


Many, however, do not support the new change. Martha Karolyi, the national team coordinator of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team who retired after Rio, told OlympicTalk in March 2015, “It will hurt the spectacle, what the gymnasts can provide for the whole world, and would eliminate some of the strongest gymnasts just in our country.


"Even when the team was six we had to leave home some strong ones. I totally don’t feel like I am really happy about that, but decisions will be taken, and we will be with any kind of decision. That’s what we did in the past, even if something doesn’t seem like very smart or very good, but once the rules are set for us, we will go with it.”


For the 2016 Rio Olympics, all teams and individual gymnasts qualified through  two competitions, the 2015 World Championships and 2016 Rio Test event. The Olympic qualification rules will be less straightforward for Tokyo.

The gold, silver and bronze medal teams from the 2018 World Championships will earn team berths (with four members) to the Olympics. At the 2019 World Championships, the top nine teams (not including the 2018 World medalists) will earn team berths. Just like in Rio, there will be 12 teams competing in Tokyo.


Individual gymnasts will qualify through top finishes at the 2019 World Championships, the 2020 World Cups, 2020 World Challenge Cups and 2020 Continental Championships. Overall, the new change should be a huge benefit for the US and many other competing countries. This change will allow all-around gymnasts to be noticed more, rather than having specific gymnasts dominating an individual event.