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Clarification on the Four Person Olympic Team Structure from the FIG

Recently, as discussed at length, the FIG approved a new ruling at an annual meeting in Melbourne, Australia, that would reduce the number of gymnasts in the team final from five gymnasts per team to four for the 2020 Olympic Cycle.

 In response to much of the backlash they've received after the news of this ruling, the FIG has released a detailed Q & A to clarify some burning questions.

First off - it's important to clarify a point  of confusion- a country can take four gymnasts in a team and qualify an additional two gymnasts for individual apparatus and all-around finals. The additional specialists or all-around gymnasts would compete separate from the team competition. So technically, this increases it from five athletes to six. This gives athletes from ridiculously deep countries like the US, to have athletes compete in the Olympics who don't necessarily fit into a puzzle of the team structure a chance to bring medals for their country on their event or specific apparatus. Hopefully, the new structure will give gymnasts from not so deep countries

Per the FIG -

"At present, only five gymnasts per country can compete at the Olympics. Beginning in 2020, up to six gymnasts per country can qualify to compete at the Olympic Games. Since six is greater than five, the new system actually creates opportunity for gymnasts from deep countries who might not be selected for a five-person Olympic team.
Yes, the team competition will be limited to four gymnasts per country, and the other gymnasts who qualify will perform in qualifications trying to reach the All-around and/or event finals. But again, more gymnasts from countries with the deepest teams -- gymnasts who are very deserving of participating in the Olympic Games -- will be able to compete under the new system, not less."

Basically, the idea is that it will create more opportunities for more gymnasts, dominant in gymnastics or otherwise. At least that is the goal. It could be good for more gymnasts to have longer carers in the sport. Another reason to lower the number of gymnasts on a team is it could benefit teams that don't have quite the depth either:

"In theory, it does make the team competition tighter. Many countries who have difficulty coming up with five Olympic gymnasts for a five-person team competition have a much better shot at making a team final under the new system. If you're a nation that has been on the bubble of Olympic team qualification, you have reasons to like this system.
The tradeoff for the stronger countries is that they get to have up to two extra gymnasts competing for medals at the Olympic Games. With more gymnasts competing, the likelihood that the country will walk out with medals is bigger. The likelihood that high-caliber gymnasts who deserve to compete at the Olympic Games will get there is also bigger."

The other major point is there will be more opportunities to qualify. The FIG has done a complete overhaul of the qualifying  process. For the 2016 Olympics, the current qualifying process started with last year's world championships in Nanning China. The top 24 teams automatically qualified to the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. From there, the top eight finishing teams get an automatic spot in the Olympics. Teams in rankings 9-16 can get another shot at qualifying a team through the test event. (There is also a qualification process for individuals, but I'm not going to get into that now).

For 2020, the process would start in 2018, at the World Championships. The top three finishing teams automatically get a ticket to Tokyo. Then, at the 2019 Worlds, the top nine team finishers that have NOT ALREADY qualified, giving 12 teams to compete in a team competition.  Individuals can qualify if they medal at the prior year's world championships. They can also gain a spot by medaling in a Continental championships like the Pan American Games, or the European Games and World Cup events, essentially doing away with an Olympic test event.

This is a great idea. I'm a little iffy on the four member team rule, I like this part of the proposal. Why? Because this is a sport, and making athletes compete in more events is good for the sport and it's good for the development of athletes. Seriously, how do you think NCAA gymnasts become so consistent? It's because they compete every single week for four months or so. Seriously,  do you think Rheagan Courville just started competing and hitting that perfect standing Arabian on beam right away? NO! It requires practice, not just practicing the skill in training, but practicing consistency in competition and that is the idea. (Side note, I wonder if the FIG got this idea from the NCAA?) Plus, more qualification events leads to more opportunities for gymnastics to be covered on television which equals more sponsorship and advertising which equals more money:

"The buzz generated by what's at stake will also increase the prestige of the World Cups and Continential Championships, and the prestige of the sport in general. More Olympic qualification events will likely to translate to more TV coverage and more buzz surrounding deserving gymnasts on their road to the Olympics.
Additionally, spreading Olympic qualification out over several competitions makes it more likely that if a worthy gymnast has one bad day at a competition, it's not the end of his or her Olympic dream, which is currently the case when it comes to qualifying through the Test Event. Not to mention that under this qualification system, specialists will not be forced to train the All-around if they don't want to."


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