A Primer to Rhythmic Gymnastics

As I have alluded to in several posts, skating is not the only sport I follow. *Gasp* To be fair, I know little about the interloper coming to hijack this skating blog. I can sort of recognize the elements, and I know who the top contenders are, but that is about it. It is simply a fun diversion that happens to have its on-season in the skating off-season.

We speak, of course, of rhythmic gymnastics.

And I figured this would be as good a time as any to introduce it because, as an unashamed patriot, I have to shove it in everyone’s faces that an American gymnast just won two World Cup medals, the first ever for the US, at World Cup Minsk. (the World Cup is essentially the same as the GP series in skating, not to be confused with various RG events called Grand Prixs-which are not the same). This will mostly be a sort of primer on the sport in general, with a little bit of extra fun stuff I currently don’t have planned. So, let’s start with the basics.


There are two scoring components in rhythmic gymnastics: the Execution Score (like GOE in skating) and the Final Composition Score, a combination of the Artistic (like PCS) and Difficulty (like TES) scores. The Execution Score begins at 10.0, and deductions are taken for any technical mistakes. (Many of them are hard to catch, but the biggest mistake, which you will definitely notice, is dropping the apparatus.) The Final Composition Score consists of the Difficulty and Artistry Scores divided by two. The maximum Artistry Score is also 10.0 and is judged on musicality and choreography. The Difficulty Score starts at 0 and goes up based on how hard the routine is. The maximum Difficulty Score is-here it is again-10.0. The highest possible RG score on any apparatus in 20.0; thus, the highest possible All-Around score is 80.


Rhythmic gymnastics at the senior level consists of four events, each on a different apparatus: hoop, ball, clubs, and ribbon. (A fifth event, rope, is also competed on the junior level.) Gymnasts have a different routine set to music for each apparatus, which contains throws:


Pivots (also called Pirouettes, RG equivalent of spins):




Dance Steps:


And Leaps:


As well as other apparatus-specific things like passes through the hoop, rolls of the hoop and ball, and club-swinging. Also, enjoy these totally trippy backwards illusion turns from Margarita Mamun:

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There are several things judges look for in an element (thank you, about.com): firstly, good form. Legs should be straight, with toes pointed. Secondly, it must be controlled. The gymnast should be in total control of what the apparatus is doing and keep it moving. Flexibility is another: leaps should hit a 180-degree (straight) split position, at very least, and ideally more than that. Lastly, choreography is considered in scoring-it must match the music and the routine should be a complete performance, not just spinning around to music that is not being acknowledged.

Top Contenders 

As in ladies skating, Russian gymnasts are dominant in rhythmic gymnastics. The reigning World Champion, Russia’s Yana Kudryavtseva, has been almost unbeatable the last few seasons despite injuries. Here is her most recent set of all-around routines (from a World Cup event last week)-isn’t it crazy how easy she makes it look?

Kudryavtseva’s teammate Margarita Mamun is one of the only gymnasts who has beaten the three-time world champion. She is known for her elegant style and the #trippybackwardsillusions that I mentioned before. In stark contrast to Kudryavtseva, who has only competed once since last year’s World Championships, Margarita has competed in nearly every World Cup this season and dominated in all of them. Here are her 2015-16 routines from a variety of World Cup events:

I especially love her “Black Swan” ribbon routine. 🙂

Another top contender, this one not Russian, is 2015 World All-Around Bronze Medalist Melitina Staniouta. In addition to being my favorite rhythmic gymnast, she is one of the most consistent gymnasts in the field and often is the one who wins when everyone makes mistakes. Here are her AA/Event Final routines from the event in Minsk this weekend:

Another medal contender is Ukrainian Ganna Rizatdinova. She is known for her artistry and being a headcase. Her most recent performances, seen here, were at World Cup Pesaro in April:

Son-Yeon Jae of South Korea is another contender who’s won at least one world medal (that I can remember). She is known for…um, I’m not really sure, actually. But people on a rhythmic gymnastics forum that will not approve my account requests occasionally complain about her “samey” routines (she apparently does very classical stuff every year), so maybe it’s that? I don’t know, but I like her. Recent routines:

There are a LOT more gymnasts I could profile here, but it would take forever. So, a shortlist of other names you should know: Alexandra Soldatova (Russia), Neta Rivikin (Israel), Salome Pazhava (Georgia), Arina Averina (Russia) and identical twin Dina Averina, and Laura Zeng (USA). 

So, that is basically all I can think of to write, so I hope this was informative and will compel you to watch RG to find out more for yourself! 🙂