sports gazette

5 reasons gymnastics and trampolining deserve more coverage

Published: 30 Sep 2016

After Team GB’s record-breaking medal haul in gymnastics and trampolining at the Olympics, Sky Sports has announced a deal to broadcast the World Cup of Gymnastics.

Taking place at The O2 in April 2017, some of the world’s best gymnasts will compete in ‘all-around’ competitions as well as individual finals.

Speaking at the press conference launch, Chairman of Matchroom Sport Barry Hearn told Sky Sports: "British sport is riding the crest of a wave after a quite outstanding performance at the Rio Olympics and I am thrilled to be bringing some of Team GB's gymnastics superstars home to London for this major event.

"With Sky Sports adding their world-leading weight behind the event, the World Cup of Gymnastics promises to be a spectacle not to be missed."

While the news has rightfully sparked excitement among British Gymnastics governing body, gymnasts and fans alike, the question remains why gymnastics and trampolining are only just receiving such coverage in mainstream media.

Here Sports Gazette discusses five reasons why gymnastics and trampolining deserve more coverage and why you should tune in…

Explosive, unpredictable, spectacular – name one other sport where you constantly find people watching in awe with mouth agape at the sheer strength and talent on show. Gymnasts always push themselves to their limits. A footballer might master the rabona, a tennis player might perfect the drop shot, a basketball player might nail the three-pointer – so what? Can they contort themselves into a seemingly impossible position that would instantaneously break somebody untrained? Can they execute multiple somersaults and turns with an air of style and grace on a beam over 4ft up and a mere 10cm wide? Can they continually be striving to bring something new, different and exciting to their performance? Take Igor Radivilov in Rio for example. His new element – a handspring triple front – had to be submitted to the International Federation of Gymnastics for approval prior to the Olympics competition. Even his own girlfriend, artistics gymnast Angelina Kyslaia, publicly expressed doubts over whether he could manage the move!

It goes without saying though that gymnastics and trampolining can, and do, both go horribly wrong from time to time. A goalkeeper will still get a chance to shine even after a fumble, or a striker after missing a sitter but for gymnasts and trampolinists it’s all or nothing and the margins are fine. One slight wobble on beam can end a competitor’s medal hopes, failing to re-catch the bar after a spectacular aerial release can lead to a fall, not spotting a landing can cause injuries which sideline the individual for months on end – surely that level of risk just adds to the anticipation and interest though?

From the gymnasts’ Herculean strength on the rings to their astounding control on the pommel horse, there are so many disciplines that could and should be covered. Vault, uneven bars, balance beam, floor, parallel bars, high bar, rhythmic, aerobic, tumbling, trampolining – without a doubt there’s a wide-reaching appeal.

“But if you see one routine, you’ve seen them all…” – wrong. When you turn up to watch a rugby game, you know the basic premise – 80 minutes of action, hopefully some tries and maybe a bit of unexpected added drama – however, creativity and ingenuity are at the heart of gymnastics. Until the beep to signal the start of a floor routine, you are completely in the dark about the music and the theme. Spice Girls, carnival, hip hop, Spanish, Game of Thrones – the possibilities are endless… No two routines are ever the same. Why watch 80 minutes of almost identical games when you could watch 80 seconds of punchy and original action?

Spectator friendly
Impressive skills and effortless routines make it a captivating spectator sport. At each gymnastics meet, there’s always plenty of action going on at once to become engrossed in. You definitely don’t need to be an expert and understand all the scoring to watch and enjoy – just marvel at the impossible appearing possible.

Trampolining and gymnastics are also two of the most accessible sports around – ages at clubs and competitions alike range from under 9s to seniors (41-year-old Uzbek Oksana Chusovitina competed at her seventh Olympics in Rio!), there is a healthy balance of males and females, and provisions for disabled people to get involved.

Additionally, it’s one of the best value for money sports. While an adult all-day ticket at the 2017 Gymnastics British Championships will set you back £13.90-£39, just 90 minutes of Premier League action will cost an average of £30.

Importance at Olympics
The Olympic motto is, "Citius, altius, fortius" ("swifter, higher, stronger") principles that are integral to gymnastics. While trampolining has been a more recent addition to the Olympics, gymnastics has been central since the inaugural Games. It has a centuries-long tradition that warrants a greater deal of respect and attention all year, every year.

Foundation of all sports
What do netball, snowboarding and white-water rafting have in common? The foundation for all three, and all sports in fact, is gymnastics. Five key aspects – flexibility, strength, form, spatial awareness, technique – create a more well-rounded individual and can considerably help athletes in other disciplines. Wales’ record try scorer and most capped winger Shane Williams hails the impact six years of training had on his rugby career in Shane: My Story: “I credit gymnastics for a lot of the explosiveness and balance that I have on the rugby field nowadays.”

Moreover, in a study carried out to find the most difficult sport requiring the highest level of athleticism, and surely therefore respect, gymnastics ranked eighth beating football, rugby and cycling.

Promoter Hearn has a positive track record in turning numerous niche sports, such as darts, into major TV attractions. He played a pivotal role in snooker’s rise in popularity, using his PR savvy to grow the domestic game as well as helping to expand globally into Europe, North America and Asia. During the global economic recession, he built the sport up from six events and £3m prize money to a whopping 25 events and over £8m prize money. However, Hearn is a polarising figure and has marginalised both governing bodies and players with his merciless, but ultimately successful, methods.

After 10.4m tuned in to watch Max Whitlock take gold in the pommel horse final, Hearn’s latest business venture is a shrewd move. If he can have as substantial an impact on gymnastics as he did on snooker, the next few years could prove profitable for both parties.

If April 2017 is too long for you to wait for your next fix of live gymnastics, fear not for the TeamGym Europeans start on 12th October and will be streamed on the FIG (International Gymnastics Federation) YouTube channel.

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