Olympic Artistic Gymnastics 101: Key terms, definitions and rules (2024)

Olympic Artistic Gymnastics 101: Key terms, definitions and rules (1)
Olympic Artistic Gymnastics 101: Key terms, definitions and rules (2)
Olympic Artistic Gymnastics 101: Key terms, definitions and rules (3)
Olympic Artistic Gymnastics 101: Key terms, definitions and rules (4)
Olympic Artistic Gymnastics 101: Key terms, definitions and rules (5)

Olympic Artistic Gymnastics 101: Key terms, definitions and rules (7)
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Simone BILESArtistic Gymnastics

Ever wondered how judges come up with their scores? Or why fans roll their eyes when they see a ‘wolf turn’? And what is the gymternet? Our guide has got you covered, clarifying some key terms for one of the most popular sports at the Games – Olympic artistic gymnastics.

Gymnastics’ roots can be traced to ancient Greece where the nation’s philosophers Plato and Aristotle advocated for the benefits of the harmony between mind and body while practising the sport.

Turns out, they were ahead of their time. Or maybe we’re a bit behind ours.

Either way, the connection between mind and body is currently undergoing a renaissance, and in no sport more than artistic gymnastics.

Arguably the greatest gymnast of all time, Simone Biles, brought the term ‘twisties’ to international consciousness at Tokyo 2020 after being unable to perform complex twisting somersaults she’d performed a thousand times before. Citing “a disconnect between body and mind”, Biles opted to remove herself from the competition – despite the pressure of being one of the iconic athletes of all time – to protect her physical and mental health. The four-time Olympic champion and 19-time world champion was lauded the world over for putting her health first, but she also had people asking: what are the twisties?

With artistic gymnastics one of the most talked about events at the Olympic Summer Games, we have created a glossary of some of the key terms and definitions, including the twisties, that will give fans more insight into the sport that will be creating headlines once again come Paris 2024.

Artistic Gymnastics Glossary

(Bold type in copy indicates additional glossary entry.)


The all-around competition crowns the best individual gymnast. The women’s champion will be the one with the highest combined total after performing on all four pieces of apparatus. The men’s overall total comes from six events.


Women compete on vault, bars, beam, and floor; the men compete on floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar. The order of the apparatus is not incidental – it is standard international competition format.

Blind landing

The description used when a gymnast only sees the ground at the last minute before landing, such as in Simone Biles’ tumbling pass seen in new skills.

Code of Points (CoP)

The official rule book by which judges evaluate routines in major international competitions. Issued by world governing body, the FIG, the guide is updated each quarter, culminating in an Olympic Games, to revise rules, regulations, and skills. Separate CoP are issued for men and women. Gymnasts and coaches scour the document each cycle to maximise start value. See also, wolf turn.


The structure of a gymnastics routine.

Connection value

Combine difficult elements together and the gymnast can receive bonus points. The skills must be performed without pause or interruption so look out for dubious connection attempts.


Points are taken off a gymnast's score for errors. A fall from the apparatus is the big one, with a whole mark being deducted.

D-score (difficulty)

There are two components of a gymnast’s final score – the D-score and the E-score (execution). The D-Score evaluates the difficulty level of the skills performed. Two panels of judges – the D-score judges and the E-score judges – mark each routine and the scores are then added together. The difficulty score is open-ended with no maximum value – but typically ranges from 5 to 7 at the Olympic level – while the E-score is out of a maximum of ten points. Vault is the only apparatus that has the same set D-score.

E-score (execution)

There are two components of a gymnast’s final score – the E-score and the D-score (difficulty). The E-score evaluates the performance of a routine, with bent knees, poor toe point or a stumble on landing all examples of poor execution. The E-score starts at 10, and judges deduct marks based on execution errors. Two panels of judges score each routine, and the final score is the combined total of the E- and D-scores.

Event/Apparatus finals

Based on scores in qualifications, the top eight ranking gymnasts for each apparatus will compete in event finals (also see two-per-country rule).


Federation Internationale Gymnastique, the international governing body of gymnastics.


Diehard gymnastics fans.


Refers to the online community of gymnastics fans.


A gymnast’s coach may submit an inquiry to contest a score. The judges review the specific query, and determine if a mistake has been made.


Men’s Artistic Gymnastics

New skills

When a gymnast is the first to compete a new move in international competition, that move is named after them in the Code of Points. No surprise that Biles has a number of moves named after her – the Biles, as it happens – including a double layout with a half twist on floor exercise, which the American debuted at the 2013 World Championships (see second tumbling pass below).

Podium training

All athletes are allowed a ‘dress rehearsal’ on competition equipment one or two days before qualification begins.


All gymnasts compete in qualifications to determine who gets to compete in the team final, all-around final, and the event finals.

Start value

The value of the routine before execution deductions are taken off.

Team final

The top eight teams from the qualification round will move to the team final.

Total score

The total score is the gymnasts' D-score and E-score added together minus any deductions.

Twisties / mental block

Much like the yips in golf but rather more dangerous, the twisties are when a gymnast has a mental block on a move. Biles’ brought the condition to the attention of the general public when she suffered from the twisties at Tokyo 2020.

Two-per-country rule

Only two gymnasts from each participating nation can qualify into a final (individual all-around, or the four event finals) in an attempt to make the finals more diverse.


Women’s Artistic Gymnastics

Wolf turn

Eye roll from gymnasts and fans alike every time they see this move, which is a LOT, due to its high value. Typically done on beam, the gymnast squats on one leg with the other outstretched and performs a spin. Or two. Or three.

The frequency of the move is what prompts groans from fans but that's not to say they don't appreciate its difficulty. Wired magazine even went into a deep-dive about the science of the move, entitled Gymnasts Make the Wolf Turn Look Easy. Physics Shows It’s Not.

Something that could be said of artistic gymnastics in its entirety.

  • The Paris 2024 artistic gymnastics competition will take place over nine days at the Bercy Arena. A total of 14 Olympic champions will be crowned between Saturday 27 July and Monday 5 August with the competition encompassing two days each of qualifying, team finals, and individual all-around finals, plus three days of individual apparatus finals.

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Olympic Artistic Gymnastics 101: Key terms, definitions and rules (2024)
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