Artistic, Rhythmic and Trampoline Gymnastics are all hugely popular with spectators. They demonstrate a thrilling mix of athleticism, grace, strength, skill, artistry, control and an incredible fearlessness over a whole range of challenges, whether swinging round and round a bar, tumbling across the floor, vaulting over a horse or somersaulting 10m up or across a narrow beam. No wonder gymnastics is one of the hottest tickets at London 2012 (we'll be glued to the telly).
Natalie Clarke was one of the enthusiastic crowd who bought £10 tickets to watch the Visa International Gymnastics at
the O2 North Greenwich Arena last week and, as these photos show, was in a prime position to see world-class action. The London Prepares event saw the British men's team win their team competition and qualify for the summer Olympics. The British women's team did not feature as they have already qualified, but two of its younger team members took part as individuals to gain invaluable experience at this daunting level.
Here's the lowdown on those three disciplines:
Artistic Gymnastics traces its heritage right back to Ancient Greece. Our favourite fact from the London 2012 website is, "the word ‘Gymnastics’ comes from the Greek for ‘naked’ – early gymnasts used to perform without any clothes."
This summer, 98 men and 98 women will compete across 14 Artistic Gymnastic medal events. Men compete on the floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar, while women compete on the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor. There are events for the best team, the best all-rounders and medals for the best on each individual apparatus. All events take place at North Greenwich Arena.
Rhythmic Gymnastics evolved to incorporate elements from classical ballet, German muscle-building techniques and Swedish exercise systems. This awesome and beautiful discipline became an Olympic sport in 1984 and is one of only two women-only events in the Olympics*. Teams and individuals compete on the floor, performing to music using either a ball, clubs, a hoop and a ribbon as hand apparatus. Events take place at Wembley Arena.
The British Rhythmic Gymnastic team started well on the first day of their qualifying competition, as they strive to achieve a good enough score to be eligible to take up a host nation place at the Olympics. Check the latest news at British Gymnastics to find out how they get on.
Trampoline Gymnastics made its Olympic debut in 2000 (the first ever Trampoline World Championships were held at the Royal Albert Hall in 1964). Two medals are up for grabs, one for the individual men's event and one for the individual women's event. Trampoline Gymnasts perform a series of routines, reaching heights of up to 10m, incorporating bounces, twists and somersaults. They'll be hitting the heights at
the Dome North Greenwich Arena.
Want to have a go? Gymnastics isn't the easiest sport to pick up as an adult but you can find a British Gymnastics Registered Club for your flexible offspring in London using the Gymnastics locator. And there's more information at British Gymnastics.
There are plenty of places where you could learn trampolining, however. A good starting point is your local leisure centre. Have fun!
*Synchronised Swimming being the other.
All photos taken at the Visa International Gymnastics event at the O2 by Natalie Clarke
More photos from the BBC
Get Londonist's lowdown on all Olympic and Paralympic sports in the lead up to the Summer Games.