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The gymnastics Olympic team sizes have been reduced from five to four starting at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) voted on the proposal this week and an official confirmed the change was passed.
While the team size has been reduced to four, two additional gymnasts from the top countries have the potential of qualifying through other competitions. The change is set but the final rules and details have not been released.
"The new Olympic Artistic Gymnastics format for 2020 has been approved. Teams will be 4 All-Around gymnasts and the best countries may qualify up to 2 individual gymnasts (All-Around or Specialist)." Steve Butcher, FIG men's technical committee president, posted on Facebook.
"The team format will be four gymnasts, four compete on each appataus, and three scores count. The best countries will be able to qualify up to two individual gymnasts also through World Cups, Challenge Cups, and Continental Championships. There are many other formulas for AA gymnasts to qualify outside of the teams. The final details are still to be worked out, but the format is now set."
Opinions From Officials
Butcher also posted that he was one of the few who did not support this change. In March, women's national team coordinator Martha Karolyi also voiced her opinion against the change, according to NBC Olympic Talk.
"It will hurt the spectacle, what the gymnasts can provide for the whole world, and would eliminate some of the strongest gymnasts just in our country," Karolyi said. "Even when the team was six we had to leave home some strong ones. I totally don't feel like I am really happy about that, but decisions will be taken, and we will be with any kind of decision. That's what we did in the past, even if something doesn't seem like very smart or very good, but once the rules are set for us, we will go with it."
Historical Team Size
There were seven gymnasts per team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, six for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and only five for the 2012 London Olympics.
This change makes it possible for a country like the US to qualify six gymnasts total. However, only four would compete in the team final and the other two would be left out. There are many factors that need to be addressed but the FIG has still not released any official statement.
The change in team size to four gymnasts was initially proposed by FIG president Bruno Grandi in hopes of giving athletes from less dominant countries more opportunities to qualify to the Olympic Games.
"Currently, the path to the Olympic Games for specialists or for gymnasts without a strong national team likely to place in the top 12 at a World Championships is to a) Win a medal on any at the World Championships just before the Olympic Games or b) Qualify at the Test Event. Under the new system, gymnasts would qualify for the Games based on results from several competitions, not just a World Championships and/or Test Event." FIG wrote in an article outlining the changes.
FIG argues that these changes were made in hopes of making the qualification more fair. "To be fair to countries with deep national teams and more than four potential medallists, national federations who have already qualified teams to the Olympics would also be able to qualify an additional two gymnasts through the Continental Championships and World Cup circuit. The advantage of that is that it would bolster participation at World Cup events and make the competitions potentially more exciting and valuable."
UPDATE - May 15, 2:29pm
The FIG announced the changes via a press release. Below is the entire excerpt on the team changes:
"The Council also approved with an overwhelming majority the principles of the new qualification system and competition calendar for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Under the approved system, the number of gymnasts in the team competition will be reduced from five gymnasts to four, opening up 24 extra spaces for male and female gymnasts at the Olympic Games.
Up to two gymansts from countries already qualified for the team competition would be eligible to compete as All-arounders or on their specialities based on a qualification system that includes results from the Continental Championships, World Cup and World Challenge Cups. "
USA Gymnastics posted a statement from President Steve Penny on Twitter. It reads:
"There are many implications presented by the change in the Olympic qualification process. Fundamentally, USA Gymnastics believes the 'fixes' being sought could have been achieved through retaining the five-person team format with some other alterations. We preferred that path because we think it was in the best interests of the sport worldwide.
This new 4+2 format has an impact on how an Olympic team will be assembled and the path athletes will choose for participation in the sport at the elite level. Gymnastics was recognized as one of the top three sports in the summer Games, and we hope this change will not have a negative impact on the thrills and excitement the fans enjoy when watching this great sport at the Olympics."
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