Rhythmic gymnastics, one of the Olympic disciplines, develops grace, coordination, agility and artistry. In this graceful, elegant and balletic discipline, gymnasts perform routines on a floor square (13m x 13m) to music using hand apparatus: ropes, hoops, balls, clubs and ribbons.
There are two types of rhythmic competition – individual events and group exercises. Exercises include body skills of steps, turns, pivots, flexions, balances, jumps, leaps and body waves and at the same time the gymnast swings, circles, throws and catches the various pieces of hand apparatus.
The hoop is composed of wood or plastic and its inner diameter can range from 80 to 90 centimetres. The minimum weight of the hoop is 300 grams. The hoop must be rigid enough to retain its shape when used in a routine.
The hoop carves a space that must be fully used by the gymnast, as when she passes through the hoop or when the apparatus rotates around any part of her body. Frequent grip changes require well-developed coordination and the shape of the hoop is ideal for rolling and rotating on the floor or on different parts of the body.
The ball is made of rubber or synthetic material and its diameter is between 18 to 20 centimetres. The weight of the ball must be a minimum of 400 grams.
The ball is the only piece of apparatus that can never be held, it may only be balanced on the body or rolled over. This requirement results in a perfect union between the body of the gymnast and the apparatus. The spectacular throws of the ball are in neat contrast with the softness and precision of the catches, both of which are also requirements of the routine.
The clubs may be made of wood or synthetic material and their length is between 40 to 50 centimetres. Each club weighs 150 grams.
Clubs provide games for the hands! The gymnasts perform mills, rotations, circles, throws, and many asymmetric movements in combination with complex movements of the body. Club handling requires rhythmic work, coordination, and clockwork precision.
The ribbon stick is 50 to 60 centimetres in length and 1cm in diametre. It is typically made of wood, bamboo, plastic or fibreglass. The ribbon is made of satin or a similar material without starch. The maximum weight of the ribbon is 35 grams, its width is between four to six centimetres, and its length is a minimum of six metres.