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Acrobatic gymnastics – fondly known as “acro” for short – is one of the most thrilling sports to compete in and watch. A competition routine lasts no longer than two and a half minutes, and involves spins, twists, elegant choreography and vibrant outfits. As well as being a visual spectacle, it requires impressive displays of strength, flexibility, coordination and trust, with athletes relying on their partners to catch and throw them high into the air.
Acrobatic gymnasts perform three different routines – a balance routine, a dynamic routine and a combined routine. Balance routines are assessed on strength, flexibility, agility, stationary holds, mounts and motions, while dynamic routines must demonstrate the athletes’ ability to initiate, assist, interrupt and stop airborne flight – resulting in spectacular summersaults and tumbles. Combined routines involve the display of both balance and dynamic elements.
All exercises in acrobatic gymnastics must be performed to music, but you need to be careful about your song choice. Picking the right tune is vital to putting on a good performance and scoring well, as the rules stipulate that all exercises must be choreographed to “harmonise logically and aesthetically” with the rhythm and mood of the musical accompaniment. Music with lyrics is allowed in one of a gymnast’s three routines.
There is a focus on aesthetics in every aspect of acrobatics gymnastics; even the height differences between partners have to be “visually logical”. All athletes have to be measured to the nearest millimetre by a professional anthropometric specialist before competitions, and points can even be deducted if partners’ heights aren’t within the competition limits or are too dissimilar.
Travelling troupes have been performing acrobatic stunts and tumbles for thousands of years, but “acro” as a sport is relatively young. The first acrobatic gymnastics championships were held in the USSR in 1939, but it wasn’t until 1999 that it was formally recognised as an official discipline of gymnastics, when the International Federation of Sports Acrobatics (IFSA) ratified the decision to merge with the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). Since then its popularity has soared, and many involved with the sport hope that the 2018 YOG in Buenos Aires will offer the perfect platform to spread its appeal to new audiences and athletes across the globe.