Olympics 2012: Men’s gymnastics – how it works

Read up on gymnastics before Great Britain takes part in the Artistic Men's Team Final this afternoon

VAULT Competitors sprint 25m before propelling themselves onto a springboard and then over a vaulting table (previously a canvas-covered “horse”) in gymnastically inventive ways. One of the two apparatus used in both the men’s and women’s competitions; the men’s is 10cm higher.


FLOOR EXERCISE Men’s routines are 60 to 70 seconds (women have 70 to 90) and are not accompanied by music, so you hear the boards creaking a lot. The emphasis is on strength rather than the dance-like movements of the female gymnasts.

POMMEL HORSE Has its roots in 19th-century cavalrymen showing off on their stationary mounts. Competitors cannot touch the apparatus — a leather-covered structure with “D” handles on the top — with their legs, which they swing around artistically while moving across the surface of the “horse” with their hands.

RINGS The most punishing piece of apparatus: two suspended cables ending in graspable rings 2.75m above the ground. Competitors swing themselves around, performing handstands, release and catch manoeuvres and strength holds, or crucifixes.

HIGH BAR Men only get one steel bar, as opposed to two in the women’s. The dismounts are especially spectacular as the rigidity of the 2.75m high bar allows gymnasts to generate more momentum than they can on the rings before launching into the air.

PARALLEL BARS Two 3.5m bars set 1.95m high and 42 to 52cm apart, according to individual preference. Only the hands and upper arms are allowed to touch the bars, which are used to perform pommel horse-like manoeuvres but with extra possibilities afforded by the space between the bars. David Goldblatt


Watch the Artistic Men’s Team Final at 4:30pm on BBC1, BBC Olympics 2