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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK

The disciplines uncovered

A guide to the different disciplines facing Commonwealth gymnasts in Manchester.

While initially not apparent on the surface, the difference between men and women in gymnastics is massive.

For a start, female competitors are in their prime in their teenage years, and only compete in four, not six artistic disciplines.

Men, meanwhile, tend to peak in their mid-20s and need far greater upper body strength, especially to tackle the pommel horse and the rings.

If anything, women's gymnastics has boasted the more popular support over the years.

And it has produced the more famous names on the world stage, such as Nadia Comaneci and Olga Korbut.

Today's women are eligible to compete on the vault, uneven bars, beam and floor, while the men battle it out on the vault, floor, pommel horse, rings, horizontal bar and parallel bars.

There is a separate all-round competition, the blue riband event, which takes in the above disciplines, and there is a similar team event.

Vault: Competitors must complete two vaults, which involve them taking a 25m run-up before launching themselves onto a spring board and leaping into the air off the horse in front of them.

An average is taken of the two vaults and people are marked on a combination of dynamics, height, power and the difficulty of the jump.

Floor: Like the vault, the floor is another discipline in which both male and female gymnasts compete.

No routine can last more than 90 seconds, during which time a series of elements must be performed.

The category is used to show strength, grace and acrobatic skill.

Uneven bars: Solely a female category, competitors move between two bars during a routine which highlights their accuracy, speed and co-ordination.

Points are docked for competitors who fall.

Beam: Arguably the most famous of all discplines, competitors must perform a certain number of elements on a four inch beam.

Daring, supreme balance and fine judgement are the major factors tested here.

Pommel horse: Contestants hold on to the two pommels as they perform their routine like a swinging pendulum.

Arm strength is key as is the creative aspect. The more daring a competitor is, the higher the points tally will be.

Rings: Another strength event, it is staged on two lengthy cables with hoops at the end stretched off a tall frame.

Hold elements are mixed with acrobatic swings to show strength and control in equal measure. Points are deducted for too much swing.

Parallel bars: This involves gymnasts starting sandwiched between two lengthy and bendable bars.

During their routine, they swing between, over and under the bars and release themselves with a dramatic final dismount.

Horizontal bar: Unlike the women's event, there is just one bar involved but the principle is the same with marks awarded for the speed and difficulty of swings, turns and hand movements along the bar.

Everything is under the discretion of two panels of judges - one panel contains two difficulty judges who assess the difficulty of each routine and another panel of six who mark for technical execution.

The highest and lowest of those six scores are discarded and an average is taken of the remaining four.

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