Dive into the world of gymnastics, a sport beloved for its gravity-defying tricks like backflips and cartwheels. Our comprehensive guide features 40 essential gymnastics statistics and facts.
We do a deep dive into the sport’s captivating history, its popularity in the U.S.A., and information about the legends who have shaped it.
Whether you’re a parent, coach, or passionate fan, these insights into gymnastics will inform and inspire, revealing the sport’s global impact and the stars that have left their mark over the generations.
Key Facts About Gymnastics
Here are seven of our favorite facts about the gymnastics industry:
- In 2021, 4.27 million people participated in gymnastics across the United States.
- Gymnastics is the most followed Olympic sport in America.
- The United States has the highest number of different gymnasts to have won medals.
- Gymnasts tend to be very short, averaging about four foot nine inches.
- Gymnastics was invented in Ancient Greece in the fifth century B.C.
- One of the most difficult gymnastics tricks is the back-full on the beam.
- One of the most famous gymnasts is Simone Biles, who won gold when she was only 16.
40 Gymnastics Statistics and Facts
Gymnastics is an amazing sport. Whether you’re simply fascinated, a gymnast yourself, or you know someone who competes, we’ve put together 40 fun gymnasts’ statistics and facts across various topics.
Gymnastics in the US
Gymnastics is a prominent sport in the U.S. Let’s somersault into eight interesting facts about this sport across America.
- Number of participants: In 2021, 4.27 million people participated in gymnastics across the U.S. (1). That was a growth of 10.9 percent from the previous year.
- The most popular year for gymnastics: 2016 was the most popular year for gymnastics, with over 5.3 million participants.
- More popular than some other sports: Ten percent of people follow gymnastics in the U.S., which is more than people who follow cycling, table tennis, and cricket.
- High school gymnastics: The number of people participating in gymnastics in 2022 was the lowest in 10 years. Of those participating, girls significantly outnumber boys.
- The US ranks top for women’s gymnastics: The United States ranks top for women’s gymnastics across the world (2). The total number of points the U.S. won in 2019 was 235. The runner-up was Canada, with 205 points.
- States with the most high-level gymnasts: California produces the highest number of high-level gymnasts, with 129 (3). Texas is next with 113, followed by Illinois with 64.
- Gymnastics is the most followed Olympic sport: Artistic gymnastics is the most followed Olympic sport amongst American fans, with 35 percent interested in it (4). Rhythmic gymnastics is the third most popular, with 28 percent of respondents watching it.
- More women of color in gymnastics: Almost 10 percent of scholarship athletes are Black women, which increased from seven percent in 2012 (5).
Gymnastics in the World
How popular is gymnastics throughout the world? Let’s look at figures by country to see how it compares to the U.S.
- Number of gymnasts who have won medals: When looking at how many different gymnasts have won medals for each country, the U.S. comes out on top with 48 gymnasts (6). The Soviet Union is second with 42 gymnasts, followed by China with 38. Romania, Russia, and East Germany are the next best countries for gymnastics.
- Most medals won: Although the U.S. has the highest number of different gymnasts who have won a medal, Russia and the Soviet Union have the highest number of medals at 248 (7). The U.S.A. has won 117 medals. Japan has won 103, China has 84, and Germany has 81.
- Russia’s gymnastics success: Between 1952 and 1992, the Russian women’s gymnastics squad won every title in the World Championships and Summer Olympics (8).
- Varying standards for men and women in the Olympics: When competing in the Olympics, the men can compete in six sporting events: horizontal bar, floor, parallel bars, rings, vault, and pommel horse. Women only compete on uneven bars, beams, floors, and vaults.
- Popularity in the UK: In 2020, there were about 232,600 people who participated in gymnastics and trampolining (9). This was down from over 315,000 in 2017.
- Median age for women competing in the Olympics: The median age for women competing in the 2020 Olympics was 21 years (10). This was a jump from 2016 when the median age was 19 years and seven months.
- Average age for men: The average age for male finalists between 1980 and 2016 was between 22.6 years and 25 years old (11).
- Gymnasts tend to be very short: The average height for an elite female gymnast is about four foot nine inches (12). In the past 30 years, this has shrunk from five foot three.
History of Gymnastics
Gymnastics has a rich and intriguing history. Let’s walk through eight cool trivia facts about the history of this sport.
- It was derived in ancient Greece: The term gymnastics was derived from ancient Greece in the fifth century BC (13). It directly translates to ‘to exercise naked’. Male gymnasts exercised with no clothes on the inside of a gymnasium. Gymnastics, back then, was an exercise aimed to develop muscles for fighting in the war.
- History of tumbling and vaulting: The only forms of gymnastics still practiced since the early days are tumbling and vaulting (14). In fact, tumbling continued through the Middle Ages and was practiced by dancers, acrobats, and jugglers.
- The development of floor exercise: The competitive floor exercise was developed by Per Henrik Ling, who is a key figure in the history of natural gymnastics. In 1813, he developed a training center in Stockholm and taught various gymnast exercises for mental health benefits.
- Gymnastics became an organized sport: In 1881, gymnastics officially became an organized sport when the International Gymnastics Federation was formed.
- Gymnastics joins the Olympic Games: In 1896, gymnastics was included in the Olympic Games (15). It looked different than it does today, with some events included now being part of Track and Field. The events included the horizontal bar, vault, rope climbing, and running.
- Germany wins the first medals: Germany took the most medals in the first gymnastics competition in the Olympics (16). They earned five gold medals, three silvers, and two bronze. Greece took home six medals, and Switzerland won three.
- Women competing in Olympic gymnastics: In the 1920s, women were finally allowed to compete in Olympic gymnastics.
- Russia banned from using their country’s name: Russia was banned from using their country’s name, anthem, or flag in Olympic sports until 2022 after not complying with doping rules.
Gymnastics Tricks and Skills
Gymnastics is a fusion of both athletic skill and beautiful perfection. Check out these eight amazing gymnast tricks and skills you may recognize from your own experience or from watching the sport on television.
- Forward roll: The forward roll, also known as a somersault, is a very basic gymnastics move for kids and beginners. It’s when the gymnast rotates their body, head first, along the floor.
- Back handspring: The back handspring is a standard move in gymnastics. It involves doing a backward flip into a handstand and then pushing off your hands into a standing position.
- Splits: Splits are a common but difficult gymnastics exercise. Gymnasts can choose to do front splits, side splits, or both.
- Back-full on beam: A back-full on beam is one of the most challenging gymnast exercises. It involves a standing-back salto tucked with a 360-degree twist. The gymnasts must practice exact precision. Otherwise, they might fall off the beam.
- Long Hang Kip on bars: The Long Hang Kip on bars involves the gymnast swinging on the high bar and performing a kip. They do not swing into a front hollow hold position or swing horizontally. They begin with a straight hollow swing under the bar, then perform the kip earlier in the swing.
- The Moors: The Moors is a floor exercise that is an extreme work of art. It involves a double twisting double back tumbling pass with the gymnast in the laid-out position.
- The Cheng: The Cheng is an important move to earn a medal in the vault. It consists of a roundoff onto the board, followed by a half-turn onto the table before the gymnast pushes off the table, performing a lay-out front flip with 1.5 twists, landing facing the table.
- Pommel Horse Scissor Travel: During this trick, the gymnast moves across the Pommel Horse by swinging their legs in a scissor-like motion.
Are you interested in learning about the most renowned gymnasts who have made history? Let’s look at eight talented and super-strong gymnasts through the ages.
- Nadia Comăneci: Nadia Comăneci was the first gymnast to score a ‘perfect 10’ at the Olympics. She was only 14 years old at the time. She is a Romanian gymnast who won her perfect score on the uneven bars during the 1976 Montreal Olympic games. She managed to get six more perfect tens during her career.
- Olga Korbut: Olga Korbut rose to fame during the 1972 Munich Games with her charisma and brave performances at just 17 years of age. A few days later, she only scored a 7.5 on the uneven bars, and she cried as she came in seventh place. But she managed to take a gold medal in the floor exercise and beam. She was the first gymnast to perform a back flip to catch on the uneven bars, now known as the Korbut Flip.
- Simone Biles: Simone Biles is an American gymnast considered the ‘greatest gymnast that ever lived’ (17). She won the World Championship golds in 2013 when she was only 16. She won another four in both 2014 and 2015. During the 2016 Olympics, she won gold in the all-around team, vault, and floor.
- Věra Čáslavská: Věra is aCzechoslovak gymnast who won three gold medals in the 1964 Tokyo Games. The audience highly anticipated her return in 1968, but a couple of months before the games, her home was invaded by Soviet tanks. She hid in the mountains and managed to keep up with her training. After a few weeks, she was allowed to join her team in Mexico City. Despite pressure against Soviet competition, she earned two gold medals and two silvers.
- Nellie Kim: Nellie Kim, competing for the Soviet Union, debuted in the 1974 World Championships at 17 years old. During the 1976 Olympics, she won three gold medals and scored a perfect 10 in the vault and floor exercises. She also won 11 medals at the World Championships between 1974 and 1979.
- Svetlana Khorkina: Svetlana Khorkina is a Russian gymnast who has won more medals in all-around championships than any other gymnast. She has seven gold medals and three silvers. She is most known for performing on the uneven bars, winning two Olympic, five World, and six European titles.
- Mary-Lou Retton: Mary-Lou Retton won five medals in the 1984 Olympic Games. She had a knee injury five weeks before the 1984 games but recovered in time. She performed perfect 10s on the floor and vault, becoming the first American athlete to win an Olympic individual all-around gold.
- Larisa Latynina: Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union debuted at 21 during the 1956 Melbourne Games. She took first place on the vault, second on the uneven bars and floor exercise, and fourth on the balance beam. For a long time, she was the only athlete in any sport to have 18 Olympic medals.