6 Reasons Gymnastics Is One of the Toughest Sports


You Need Very Specialized Skills

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Gymnastics doesn’t translate well to many other sports. Sure, gymnasts sometimes become great divers, pole vaulters and aerial skiers (and sometimes vice versa) but for the most part, an athlete who excels in another sport will not necessarily be good at gymnastics. Gymnasts need balance, speed, strength, hand-eye coordination and a lot of explosive power, among other things.

And the skillset required changes from event to event. For instance, in competition, male gymnasts move from pommel horse, which requires balance, enormous core strength, and hand-eye coordination; to rings, which requires brute strength; to vault, which requires tremendous power. Challenging? Incredibly.

It’s Scary

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Every gymnast gets scared, and most get scared every single day in practice. Some have skills or entire groups of skills that they simply won’t do because of a mental block (like, in extreme examples, backward twisting or tumbling.) Gymnasts perform multiple flips and twists, high up in the air, and wipe-outs happen. Every gymnast has a story of a near-miss or a freak injury caused by a skill gone awry. Some have many stories like this.

Gymnastics is a scary sport, and fear is something that gymnasts have to deal with all the time.

Training Is a Full-Time Job

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Top gymnasts put in as many hours as adults do at a desk job: Elites often average about 40 hours a week of training time. But even younger, less experienced gymnasts put in a huge amount of hours. Beginner competitors at Junior Olympic levels 4, 5 and 6 routinely have three or four practices a week, and each is often two or three hours long.

You Start Very, Very Young

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There are a few sports that are certainly for the young, and gymnastics is one of those. Many kids get their start at age two or three in their first pre-school gymnastics classes. Those same children get “serious” and start competing at age six or seven – and at that point, they’re training several times a week.

Age rules require Olympians to be at least 16 in the calendar year, but there are junior elite gymnasts on the women’s side as young as 11 and 12. It’s not impossible to be an older gymnast — 2004 Olympians Annia Hatch and Mohini Bharwaj, as well as other “older” Olympians like Oksana Chusovitina, and countless recreational adult gymnasts prove this — but the sport is definitely harder as you get older.

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