Come 2020, the World Championships and Olympic Test Event won’t be a gymnast’s only path to the Olympic Games.
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) provided more detail into how it plans to revamp the qualification process Monday, saying continental championships and World Cup events would be part of the qualification system in the future.
“The new system should allow athletes participating in continental competitions to qualify directly for the World Championships or the Olympic Games, the same as athletes competing at World Cup events, thus raising the status of these competitions. Lastly, we plan to adopt a competition calendar that is structured in such a way that recognises the universal importance of the Olympics,” FIG President Bruno Grandi wrote in the FIG newsletter circulated Monday. (Read the full text below.)
As it is now, gymnasts qualify to the Olympic Games through the team and individual competitions at the World Championships the year before the Games. Gymnasts who win individual event finals at Worlds receive an automatic berth to the Games, while others advance to the Test Event held six months before for a final qualification, where they must compete all-around in order to qualify for the Games. (For those who want to know the intricacies of the Test Event system, there’s more on that here.)
The problem with qualifying to the Games strictly through Worlds is that Olympics-worthy gymnasts (notably event specialists) who don’t medal at the Worlds before the Games get shut out. Notable examples include reigning Olympic pommel horse champ Krisztian Berki, who didn’t compete in Beijing, Dutch strongman Yuri van Gelder and his super finessed teammate Jeffrey Wammes, just to name a few.
The qualifiation system does make for an amusing (albeit slightly dangerous) Test Event, where specialists compete all events, even the ones they don’t normally train, in an attempt to qualify for the big Olympic dance. Reigning Olympic high bar champion Epke Zonderland earned his traveling papers to London this way, perilously navigating his way through routines on floor, vault and rings in addition to his usual pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar. Zonderland doesn’t train rings due to an old shoulder injury, and his performances on vault and floor showed why he’s a three-event specalist. Still, he made it to the Games.
The FIG will host a symposium in October to allow national federations to give their feedback on the proposed plans, and will make a final decision next May. The new system would not be put into place until 2017.
Your take: How would you change the Olympic qualifiying system? Please leave a comment below.
Here’s the full text of Bruno Grandi’s President’s Newsletter:
The FIG has wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity for renewal as its Council gave its resounding support to the new programme of reforms. I can today confirm that the FIG has taken some historic decisions, which are going to have a lasting impact on its culture. The bodies that make up the FIG Council all gave their backing to my plans to reform the competition calendar and the Olympic qualification system.
Reforms are sometimes undertaken out of absolute necessity and implemented with a sense of urgency. However, I have opted to move forward steadily and without undue haste. The choices and decisions we make must be carefully weighed up, and then tested out before being implemented definitively. We will allocate one entire Olympic cycle for the purpose of introducing our reforms properly and comprehensively, taking the time needed to evaluate decisions and their consequences at every stage, and also to speak to all of the parties concerned.
These reforms will affect both the competition calendar and competition formats. The general principles will be established in coordination with the continental unions. The new calendar should maximise opportunities for Olympic qualification via World Championships, continental championships and World Cup events. These principles were formulated by the Executive Committee, before being fine-tuned by the Competitions Commission. They were then put before the Council for approval.
It was decided that in October 2013, the FIG will host a Symposium to which all of the member federations will be invited and offered the chance to share their views. Any feedback received will be studied by the Executive Committee during November, and it will then submit its conclusions to the 2014 FIG Council next May, the latter being the only organ which is empowered to approve all procedural decisions.
All of the measures adopted, including the new calendar and the new formats, will then be tested out in practice, in order to verify the validity and effectiveness of the reforms. The new calendar and formats are then scheduled to come into force permanently from January 1, 2017.
All in all, the reforms should provide gymnasts with a clear path towards qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games.
The Council was then called on to deliver its verdict on the six guiding principles that underpin the reforms. In keeping with the FIG’s sporting traditions, the first of these is the prioritising of team competitions, and helping to ensure that the global reach of our sport is optimised, and that opportunities to compete for prestigious Olympic medals are maximised.
The FIG will also focus on individual All Around competitions, to help the physical development of the athletes to prepare them for team competition. We will need to focus on those athletes who have specific abilities to enable them to improve particular skills, so that those federations which boast strong gymnastic traditions and schools but which have limited resources can compete for Olympic medals.
The new system should allow athletes participating in continental competitions to qualify directly for the World Championships or the Olympic Games, the same as athletes competing at World Cup events, thus raising the status of these competitions. Lastly, we plan to adopt a competition calendar that is structured in such a way that recognises the universal importance of the Olympics.
A historic decision
Dear friends, I am delighted to report that, during the vote in Liverpool, 38 of the 40 members present voted in favour of the changes, with just two voting against.
It was a landmark moment, one that means that history and future generations will remember the 2013 FIG Council in Liverpool as the crucible for fundamental reform of the FIG. The decisions taken there will have an enduring impact on the development of gymnastics, on a par with the abolition of compulsory routines by the FIG General Assembly in Atlanta in 1996.
I am delighted by what I regard as a historic moment, and congratulate the FIG Council for its foresight and wisdom in giving such unequivocal backing to the reforms.
With my best wishes,
FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DE GYMNASTIQUE
Prof. Bruno GRANDI, FIG President
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