Apparatus Norms Evolution WAG

The Evolution of the Apparatus Dimensions in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics

Has the balance beam always been 10 cm wide? When did balance beams start having padding? When did the uneven bars start having tension cables? How far apart were the bars in 1989? Have the landing mats always been 20 cm thick?

The cheat sheet below gives you the basic contours of the ever-changing apparatus norms. 

The first dimensions for bars with tension cables at FIG events.

A Few Facts

  • Since the 1936 Olympics, the low bar has always been 80 cm lower than the high bar.
    • In 1936, the distance between the bars was roughly 51.3% of today’s distance.
  • 1952 Olympics: The floor area was 12 x 12 m for the first time at a major FIG event.
  • 1967 European Championships: The first time that uneven bars with cables were used in competition at a major FIG event.
    • In 1967, the distance between the bars was roughly 54.9% of today’s distance.
  • 1975 European Championships: The first time that a padded beam was used in competition at a major FIG event.
    • Jahn’s concept of a balance beam from Deutsche Turnkunst in 1816 was a round tree trunk (see the PDF below).
    • While beams eventually became flat, they still adhered to their wooden origins. In 1960, the beam was to be made of wood that restricted the risk of splintering.
  • 1979 World Championships: Commonly believed to be the first time a spring floor with coiled springs was used at a major FIG event.
    • Note: Even today, the Apparatus Norms booklets talk about elasticity on floor but do not specify the use of springs.
  • 1997: The FIG approved the use of 20 cm mats for women’s artistic gymnastics. As a result, the height of the women’s apparatus changed. (20 cm mats had been the standard for men’s artistic gymnastics since 1989.)
  • 2000: The Women’s Technical Committee printed the incorrect height of the vault in the Apparatus Norms. I believe this contributed to the vault debacle at the Sydney Olympics.

Flying rings? Track and field events like throwing a javelin? To learn more about the evolution of the women’s program at FIG events, head over to this post.

Download Your Cheat Sheet

With no further ado, here’s a cheat sheet with apparatus dimensions and drawings over the years.

Appendix: Past Apparatus Norms Booklets




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