How to Become an Olympic Gymnast

Gymnastics Rio Gala- Olympics: Day 12
Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Gymnastics is one of the most popular sports in the Olympic Games, and star gymnasts often end up as household names. Recently, gymnasts like Nastia LiukinGabby Douglas and Simone Biles have been the best in the sport.

Want to become an Olympic gymnast? Currently, women's artistic gymnasticsmen's artistic gymnasticsrhythmic gymnastics, and trampoline are all Olympic events. Here’s how to get started.

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The Governing Bodies of Gymnastics

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USA Gymnastics (USAG) is the national governing body for the sport in the United States, and the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) is the worldwide governing body. USAG organizes and presides over many of the gymnastics competitions in the US, while the FIG does the same internationally.

USAG also presides over a few types of gymnastics that are not in the Olympics, like acrobatic gymnastics and tumbling. 

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Requirements to Be on the Olympic Team

Nastia Liukin (USA). © Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

The specific requirements to qualify onto the team vary from year to year, and by the type of gymnastics.

The men’s and women’s artistic teams selected their five-member Olympic teams by committee. The committee weighed the performance of each gymnast at nationals and Olympic Trials, his/her strengths on each apparatus, and his/her past experience.

In rhythmic gymnastics, athletes qualify based on their rankings in the previous world championships or other major competitions.

In trampoline, the two athletes (one man and one woman) are selected by the total points earned in four different competitions throughout the year.

In order to be considered, all candidates must be United States citizens and must have qualified to the elite level.
 

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How to Become an Olympian

The 2004 USA Olympic gymnastics teams. © Clive Brunskill / Getty Images (Both photos)

Are you ready to take on a full-time job? Most Olympic gymnasts train around 40 hours a week to reach the highest level of the sport. Some forego traditional schooling, and instead opt for home-schooling programs or delay attending college. In the end, though, many would say it was all worth it.

To get started in gymnastics, find a club that’s a USAG member and has a competitive Junior Olympic training program. Once you progress through the levels (10 is the top level), you’ll attempt to qualify as an elite. In order to make the Olympic team, you’ll need to be classified as an elite.

As said before, the specific qualification procedures vary each Olympic year, but in general, to make the team you’ll have to be one of the top gymnasts in the United States. In men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics, that means being one of the best all-arounders or an excellent event specialist. In trampoline, it means you've earned one of the highest point totals in Olympic qualifying competitions. In rhythmic gymnastics, it is usually the top ranked all-arounder who goes.

Though it’s a very rigorous process, and of course the odds are long, it’s still worth trying. Every gymnast who makes the team dreamed of becoming an Olympian long before his or her dream became a reality – and even if you never come close, you can still enjoy all the benefits of gymnastics.