Stick the landing and become an instant expert in gymnastics

What's the difference between uneven bars and parallel bars? Is it possible to score a 'perfect 10' anymore? Here's everything you need to know to become an instant expert in gymnastics ahead of the world championships in Montreal.

Everything you need to know about vaults, bars and why there's no 'perfect 10'

Canada's Isabela Onyshko performs on the balance beam during the Rio 2016 Olympics. (Rebecca Blackwell/The Associated Press)

The artistic gymnastics world championships take place at Montreal's Olympic Stadium this week, and you can watch the men's and women's events on CBC Sports.

But, what's the difference between uneven bars and parallel bars? Is it possible to score a "perfect 10" anymore? Did they really used to do this stuff naked?

Before the event gets underway, here's the answer to all of those questions (yes, even that last one) and more to ensure you sound like the smartest sports fan in the room.

Quick facts

  • You can stop giggling now. Yes, in Ancient Greece gymnastics was practiced naked. It was originally used as a means to train for war. The sport was featured in the ancient Olympics and has been a part of every modern Games since their 1896 rebirth.
  • More than gym class. Gymnasia (where training took place) served as both school and training facility for the Ancient Greeks, where students would get a well-rounded education that went beyond the physical. If modern gym classes followed the same formula, you'd be doing somersaults while perfecting the Pythagorean theorem.
  • Soviet superiority. Men's and women's gymnastics were a hallmark of the Soviet Union's summer sport programme. Romania has also been a traditionally strong country, with China and the United States featuring more prominently in recent Olympic Games.

What are the events?

The women compete in four disciplines: vault, uneven bars, beam and floor exercises. The men compete in six disciplines: vault, pommel horse, parallel bars, horizontal bar, rings and floor exercises.

These world championships will only feature individual competition; team competition for men and women is included in the Olympics.

Here's a closer look at each discipline:

Bars: Men's competitors have two disciplines that feature bars: parallel and horizontal, each requiring strength, balance and a solid dismount at the end. Uneven bars, which is only featured in the women's competition, features one bar 1.61 metres high and another 2.41 metres high, with the gymnast swinging and flipping between the two. If the video below makes you a bit dizzy, open a window and drink some ginger ale before proceeding further.

Beam: Five metres long, 10 centimetres wide. That's all competitors have to balance on while attempting to execute an array of acrobatic awesomeness.

Vault: Featured in men's and women's gymnastics, competitors get a running start before springing themselves into the air and trying to execute a clean landing. One of the most memorable vaults in Olympic history came from American Kerri Strug, who secured team gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta by sticking her landing on an injured ankle.

Pommel horse: No horses were harmed in the making of this event, which at first glance looks like mid-air breakdancing.

Rings: Remember that scene in Old School where Vince Vaughn's character hoists himself on the rings with a dart dangling from his lips? That strategy is not advisable in actual competition.

​​Floor exercises: This discipline combines music and dance movements with tumbling and acrobatics, all while competing on a surprisingly spongy surface.

No more 'perfect 10s'

The judging system for artistic gymnastics changed following the 2004 Olympic in Athens, abolishing the "perfect 10" in favour of a new code of points.

Judging now consists of two panels that produce both a difficulty score and an execution score. The sum of the two produces the gymnast's final score.

The two-person difficulty panel starts from zero and awards points based on what they see, while the five judges on the execution panel start at 10 and deducts points based on errors and falls during the attempt. There are also two reference judges who oversee the execution scores in case of problems.

When to watch

Here's the full streaming schedule for the world championships on (all times Eastern):

  • Monday, Oct. 2 at 6 p.m.: Men's qualification
  • Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m.: Women's qualification
  • Thursday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.: Men's individual all-around final 
  • Thursday, Oct. 5 at 10:30 p.m.: Road to the Olympic Games — Men's individual all-around final 
  • Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.: Women's individual all-around final 
  • Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.: Road to the Olympic Games — Women's individual all-around final 
  • Saturday, Oct. 7 at 1 p.m.: Men's and women's individual apparatus finals 
  • Saturday, Oct. 7 at 3 p.m.: Road to the Olympic Games — Men's and women's individual apparatus finals 
  • Sunday, Oct. 8 at 1 p.m.: Men's and women's individual apparatus finals
  • Sunday, Oct 8 at 2 p.m.: Road to the Olympic Games — Men's and women's individual apparatus finals

And here's the full broadcast schedule for CBC-TV:

  • Thursday, Oct. 5 at 11:30 p.m., (Local time): Road to the Olympic Games: Men's individual all-around final
  • Friday, Oct 6 at 8 p.m., (Local time): Road to the Olympic Games: Women's individual all-around final 
  • Saturday, Oct 7 at 3 p.m. ET: Road to the Olympic Games: Men's and women's individual apparatus finals
  • Sunday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m./2:30 NT: Road to the Olympic Games: Men's and women's individual apparatus finals

With files from The Canadian Press


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