Rhythmic Gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics: What to Know for 2021

Laura Zeng – Rhythmic Gymnastics
Laura Zeng – Rhythmic Gymnastics

Rhythmic gymnastics fans will have to wait almost two weeks after the Olympic opening ceremony to see the heavily-contested competition in Tokyo. 

The United States plans to send a full contingent of rhythmic gymnasts to compete in 2021 — the first time since the 1984 Los Angeles Games when the sport first made its Olympic debut.

While America looks to prove itself as a serious contender in Tokyo, Russia aims to collect gold in the individual all-around for the sixth straight Olympics.

Set up slightly differently than the artistic gymnastics Americans are used to watching, rhythmic gymnastics offers breathtaking performances with apparatuses such as hoops, balls, clubs and ribbons. A single drop of one of these apparatuses could cost a gymnast a spot on the medal stand.

Here’s everything you need to know about rhythmic gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics:

What is rhythmic gymnastics?

Rhythmic gymnastics is contested on a 13-by-13 meter mat, much like the artistic gymnastics’ floor routine. The main difference between rhythmic gymnastics and the floor routine fans might be used to seeing Simone Biles compete in is that rhythmic gymnasts compete with hoops, balls, clubs and ribbons.

All-around competition will include routines with all four apparatuses, while group competition will have one routine with all five gymnasts using balls and a second using a combination of three sets of hoops and two sets of clubs. Routines are set to music and last between 75 to 90 seconds.

How is rhythmic gymnastics scored?

Once the routine begins, the gymnast performs a variety of tricks with the hoop, ball, club or ribbon, and the apparatus has to be in constant motion. Scores are a combination of difficulty and execution, and each component carries a 10.0-point maximum for a potential perfect score of 20.0.


If the gymnast drops the apparatus and can pick it back up with only one step, she will be deducted 0.3 points. If it takes one to three steps to pick it back up, she will be deducted 0.5 points. If it’s more than four steps away, she will be deducted 0.7 points. If the gymnast steps out of bounds during the routine, she has 0.3 points deducted. 

What country is the best at rhythmic gymnastics?

Russia has dominated the medal count with 16 total medals and 10 golds since rhythmic gymnastics was added to the Olympic program in 1984. Russian gymnasts Yevgenia Kanayeva, Natalya Lavrova and Yelena Posevina are tied with the most gold medals in rhythmic Olympic history with two each. The Soviet Union even ranks sixth for most medals in Olympic history with two. In fact, of the 45 Olympic medals awarded, only two have gone to non-European countries.

Who is on the USA rhythmic gymnastics team?

Laura Zeng and Evita Griskenas will wear the stars and stripes in the individual competition. Zeng is competing in her second Olympics after placing 11th in Rio in 2016. Griskenas will make her Olympic debut. Zeng and Griskenas have finished first and second in every U.S. championship since 2017, so it’s only fitting they will head to Tokyo together.

The U.S. will also send a team to compete in the group competition. Lili Mizuno, Camilla Feeley, Nicole Sladkov, Isabella Connor, Yelyzaveta Merenzon and Elizaveta Pletneva will all make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo. The U.S. group previously finished in 14th at the Rio Olympics, so the newcomers will look to improve on the U.S. standing this summer.

Who are the favorites to medal in rhythmic gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics?

Israel’s Linoy Ashram, who won gold at the 2020 European Championships with Russia absent due to COVID-19 restrictions, looks to break Russia’s gold-medal streak in rhythmic gymnastics. 

Russian twins Dina and Arina Averina remain favored to win gold and silver in Tokyo but Ashram is motivated with a collection of six silver and five bronze medals from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 world championships 

What is the Tokyo Olympics rhythmic gymnastics schedule?

Rhythmic gymnastics will take place at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre from Aug. 5-7. Individual qualification will commence on Thursday Aug. 5 at 9:20 p.m. ET with 26 individuals vying for 10 finalist spots. The individual final will take place on Saturday, Aug. 7 at 2:20 a.m. ET. Fourteen teams will compete in group qualification on Friday, Aug. 6 beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET., and eight will advance to the group final on Saturday, Aug. 7 at 10:00 p.m. ET.