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Stretching Out: Is It Time to Drop the 2-Per-Country Rule?
(17 votes, average 3.53 out of 5)

At the 1972 Munich Olympics, the Japanese trio of Sawao Kato, Eizo Kenmotsu and Akinori Nakayama swept the all-around medals (pictured here), and their teammates Shigeru Kasamatsu, Mitsuo Tsukahara and Teruichi Okamura placed fifth, eighth and 11th, respectively.

Japan also swept the medals on parallel bars and high bar. On the latter, Japan occupied places 1 through 5, with Nikolai Andrianov of the USSR placing sixth. (Six gymnasts made finals back then.) Yes, Japan was that good. Since 1972 was the last Olympics to feature the highest-scoring gymnasts in the finals, its medalists really earned their hardware.

The current finals rule of two-per-country was implemented incrementally. The 1974 Varna worlds had no limit for the all-around, but only two gymnasts per country could compete in event finals. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the limits were three for the all-around and two for events. When the all-around field was trimmed to 24 at the 2003 Anaheim worlds (it used to be 36, then 32 in 2001), the limit decreased to two gymnasts per country. Ouch!

Even if I don't agree, I can understand the limit of two for apparatus finals. But two per country in the all-around is too severe, especially at a time when all-arounders are a shrinking population. At the London Olympics, for example, only three men's teams had more than two all-arounders. Two-time world all-around silver medalist Philipp Boy was among those who got bumped. Of the 12 women's teams, six had three all-arounders, and six had two. 2011 world champion Jordyn Wieber was eliminated.

The individual all-around used to be the centerpiece of a major championship. Eliminating potential gold medalists, such as Boy and Wieber, tarnishes that title. Giving Wieber's spot to the 25th-ranked gymnast doesn't make much sense, unless that person has a legitimate shot at winning. So the question is, Should the worlds and Olympics be real championships, or are they merely participation sports? (Think kids' T-ball, where everyone gets a trophy.)

After the conclusion of the Antwerp world championships, I asked FIG Women's Technical Committee President Nellie Kim if it was time to abolish the two-gymnasts-per-country limit for individual finals at worlds and Olympics. She said she would like to see it go, but that it was up to the FIG Executive Committee. Her hands are tied.

I applaud the FIG's mission to globalize the sport. I appreciate that if a gymnast from the Dominican Republic qualifies for an event final, gymnastics might grow in that Caribbean nation. I understand that the FIG wants to increase its membership and provide competitive opportunities.

The FIG Executive Committee can keep the two-gymnast limit for event finals, but it should return to three gymnasts per country in the all-around faster than a Kenzo Shirai quad. Do it for the fans, do it for the integrity of the competition, and do it for the gymnasts who deserve the opportunity to realize their dreams.

Comments (11)add comment

Karmen said:

I agree with that too but than you also have to give a chance for gymnasts from small countries who dont have teams for the Olympics.Its not fair that only one gymnast can go.Why cant two of them go?that is also how you can move this "2-per country rule" and also help to give an oppotrunity for small countries.
October 26, 2013
Votes: +4
Two per country rule must stay., Low-rated comment [Show]

Li said:

The US liked it when they supported the change. Now they whine because it hurts them.
I like it in event finals but not AA.
October 26, 2013
Votes: +4

GymGrrl said:

It needs to go
The rule needs to go. Sport is sport, and the best gymnasts deserve to compete. The truly exciting competitions - the ones that draw audiences and make history - are the ones where the best of the best are going head-to-head. I don't like the idea of "dumbing down" a sport to promote some sort of international "affirmative action." If you want your country - big or little - to be represented in an AA final, then you need to work for that right. Period.
October 26, 2013
Votes: +22

Atwood said:

Increased participation
I agree with this, and have often wondered how gymnastics has lost its clout in getting increased participation in the Olympics. AA finals with only 24 gymnasts are too small a pool, 36 in finals and 3 per country would be better for the audience AND the sport. If increased global participation is the goal, (2 per country rule) why is the FIG not fighting for 6 member teams to get MORE routines and MORE athletes into top level competitions? Less in this case is not better than more. It all is tarnishing the WINNERS medals by diluting the field.
October 27, 2013
Votes: +19

Kevin said:

I hate the 2 per country and 24 really stinks and it does not weed out the slackers but the potential medalists. up to 36 and 3 per country for the All-Around, even 48 All-Around, give the spectators some diversity...when our sport was the most popular there were 3 All-Arounder's and 2 per event finals...and bring back the 10, the masses that only tune into the Olympics cannot follow and are turned off by the scoring...and reward for artistry, and especially originality, the routines are more and more cookie cutters and the dance is pathetic. cheerleading is more interesting than half the FX routines.....
October 28, 2013
Votes: +9

Tatooine said:

Yes, the rule needs to go.
This past Olympics (and Worlds) it struck me for the first time that the best weren't competing against the best, which is what competition should be about. Maybe they could create a fifth and sixth rotation of special qualifiers that will compete first, like a wildcard group, for the AA.

Why was the number of gymnastics in the AA cut down to 24?
October 28, 2013
Votes: +4

Mary Shaw said:

Team size and the Olympics
Apparently the size of the gymnastics team at the Olympics is not just about the FIG, but the IOC. The more sports the IOC allows in, the fewer the number of athletes in all sports that can be accommodated. So, in this case it's each sport against other sports. Coming from a sport that fought very hard to get into the Olympics I can say that if the number of athletes for gymnastics means another sport gets Olympic recognition then I think it is worth it. Others may disagree with me, but they may be folks who don't come from a sport like mine (whitewater slalom). My mother still has t-shirts to support the campaign to get ww slalom into the summer olympics. Oh, and fwiw, ww slalom gets hardly any recognition. Gold medalists in that sport barely make anything outside the sport, and they certainly don't get the recognition that folks like Wieber, Douglas, etc.. get. The same is with other sports as well. SO, take up team size not only with the IOC, but athletes from sports like mine.
October 30, 2013
Votes: +0

Gaar Adams said:

Development of Gymnasts in the Middle East
Earlier this month, I penned an article about the FIG's development program and how it affects gymnasts in Middle Eastern countries. You can check it out here:

(Subscription required.)
October 30, 2013 | url
Votes: +0

Flipa said:

The number of gymnasts competing in the Olympics was not reduced to allow athletes from other sports to compete. It was reduced to allow athletes in different gymnastics disciplines to compete. Gymnastics on a whole is only allowed a certain number of athletes. To allow trampolining in, the number of artistic gymnasts per team was reduced.
It must have been decided that the same rules be applied at the world championships, though it would be possible to have more gymnasts in the AA and to have more compete per team at Worlds as there is not such a constraint on participants or time available.
November 03, 2013
Votes: +3

Da said:

Of course
If I'm going to pay an exorbitant amount of my hard-earned money for tickets to an event that supposedly features world-class gymnasts, I want to see world-class gymnasts regardless of country. Sorry, but I could care less about the Sri Lankan national champion doing a back walkover on beam at worlds (and I don't care how many times their federation or any other of the smaller states votes for Grandi, they still are crap). That's generally when I (and the rest of the spectators) head to the refreshments stands or the toilet. If you want to see everyone from *all countries ever* have a fair chance, stick to low-level competitions where everyone gets a ribbon for trying, but don't sacrifice quality for quantity.
March 13, 2014
Votes: +2

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