Rhythmic Diaries: Why Rhythmic Deserves its Spot in the Olympics

Amanda and Elaine Dai are sisters and competitive rhythmic gymnasts who train at Rhythmic Dreams in Newton, Massachusetts. "Rhythmic Diaries" is their account of balancing training and competing in this rigorous sport with being normal high school students.

The cauldron ablaze and tensions high, the 2012 London Games are officially underway. Already they are marked by extraordinary triumph and poignant heartbreak (for instance, in the case of our women's artistic gymnastics team), yet they will also be riddled with controversy.

Many have pointed out there are two women-only Olympic sports: rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming. An article titled "It's Time to Kick Out Some Olympic Sports" and the like have surfaced within recent years and target the two sports, galvanizing an incendiary response. Regarding rhythmic, critics are not as concerned about the lack of a male Olympic counterpart as they are about the outward image it projects: young women sporting crystal-covered leotards and colorful cosmetics.

What saddens me is that rhythmic gymnastics is being judged by its appearance. Rhythmic is so much more than leotards and make-up. It not only combines elements of dance and ballet but also represents a unique blend of other sports. Rhythmic gymnasts have the aim of an archer, the acrobatics of an artistic gymnast and the strength of a swimmer, not to mention the speed of a sprinter and the hand-eye coordination of a hockey player.

While the apparatus may seem facile to handle, it takes great coordination and mastery to properly wield them. Rhythmic gymnastics is not easy (just watch the video), and apparatus are not for decoration; they exist to intensify the sport's difficulty. Imagine holding a ribbon stick attached to six meters of soft rayon while executing a series of turning leaps. How can you NOT get tangled? Easy: spiral, snake, or circle the ribbon as you move. Ribbon handling demands precise movement, especially when the slightest deviation can produce a knot. Breaks in pattern, getting caught in the ribbon, and procuring knots are the equivalent of form breaks and balance checks in artistic gymnastics, just as dropping the apparatus and going out-of-bounds equate falling off the apparatus in artistic.

It's also important to note the corporeal look of a gymnast does not play any role in the ultimate score. In other words, neither the number of rhinestones nor the amount of make-up factor into scoring; anything unrelated to the routine's contents has a null value. Rather, a routine's score is determined from the sum of three values:

Execution (E): execution of routine (technical errors)
Artistry (A): composition, musical accompaniment and choreography of routine
Difficulty (D): average of D1 (body difficulty) and D2 (apparatus difficulty)

So while grace and beauty may be the first things to note, look a bit closer -- you may see feats of athleticism and flexibility you never imagined humanly possible. Rhythmic will be live August 9-12, so please watch a bit! Hopefully you'll see why it's such an incredible sport.