As Minneapolis becomes Gymnastics City USA while hosting the U.S. Olympic trials, it's the artistic gymnastics events that generally draw the largest crowds for big names like Suni Lee, Simone Biles and Shane Wiskus. Who will represent Team USA at the Paris Olympics in July? We'll find out at the end of the trials, running June 27-30 at Target Center.

If you marvel at these athletic feats slack-jawed but aren't sure what to make of the events and scores, we've got you covered.

Women compete in four events, men in six. In general, the goal of many gymnasts is to combine difficulty, power and strength, while making it all look easy and graceful — and always with a stuck landing. Any wobbles, steps or hops will result in reduced scores.

Scores combine a difficulty score ("D score") and an execution score ("E score") into a larger number. Execution scores start at 10 and go down with each deduction — a fall, an unpointed toe, an uneven handstand. Difficulty scores start from zero and are earned based on the skills attempted. This scoring system means many athletes have to balance attempting exceptionally hard skills with doing their best to pull them off confidently.

But each event has its own special challenges, and that's what makes gymnastics a perennial favorite. Here's what we'll be watching for.

Women's artistic gymnastics events

Uneven bars

Gymnasts swing around, under and between the two bars. Leather wrist-and-palm supports, called "grips," are worn by most bar workers to keep hold of the bar.

Routines should flow seamlessly, without pauses or extra swings, and must feature release moves — switching from one bar to the other or releasing and regrasping the same bar. These can be very exciting, and some athletes are exceptional at connecting them together to garner extra points.

Athletes often use "giants," where the body is swung entirely around the bar with a handstand at the top, to gain momentum.

Who to watch: Reigning Olympics all-around gold medalist Suni Lee is known for her skill on this event and had at one time the highest difficulty score in the world by combining a Nabieva with other release moves. Lee has been training a new skill, a full-twisting, layout Jaeger, which, if executed in international competition, would be named after her.

High bar height: 2.5 m (8 ft.)

Low bar height: 1.7 m (5 ft., 5 in.)

Bar length: 2.4 m (7 ft., 10 in.)

Bar diameter: 4 cm (1.5 in.)

Distance between bars: 1.3 to 1.8 m (4 ft., 3 in. to 5 ft., 10 in.)

Balance beam

Atop the slim 4-inch plank, a successful beam routine is difficult in skill but made to look easy, as if performed on a floor. Confidence is key — a fall results in a one-point deduction.

Gymnasts are required to perform both forward and backward somersaults, spins, leaps and various dance elements, often combining these movements together in sequences designed to increase difficulty scores. Athletes must use the whole beam, and the routine can't be longer than 90 seconds.

Skill to watch: Many athletes execute a wolf turn, which is also seen on the floor but is more difficult on the beam. Spinning on one foot while in a squatting position with the free leg extended combines force, torque and inertia while keeping the body's center of gravity from deviating.

Height: 1.25 m (4 ft.)

Width: 10 cm (4 in.)

Length: 5 m (16 ft., 5 in.)

Both men and women's events

Floor exercises

Women and men compete on the floor, combining dance, jumps and tumbling passes — feats of flips and twists that often span corner-to-corner — in both forward and backward combinations.

The women's side is choreographed to music and lasts up to 90 seconds. It often features more personality and dance. Men compete without music and their routines are less than 70 seconds. They have additional requirements to show balance and strength skills.

Extra steps — especially steps outside of the white floor border — result in deductions.

Who to watch: Jade Carey, who won a gold medal on the floor in Tokyo, will be back at this event, and she still excels.

Dimensions: 12 m (40 ft.) square


Athletes sprint toward the table and launch from a springboard up and over the table in a series of flips and rotations, a process that happens very quickly — fewer than five seconds.

While the run phase is not officially judged, it is essential for building momentum. During the flight phase, judges assess height, distance and form, including pointed toes and legs held tightly together.

Vaults often garner high scores, and the differences separating athletes can be incredibly slim. Landings are especially crucial.

Skill to watch: Yurchenko vaults are the most common at this level, in which the athlete launches from the springboard facing away from the table and flipping backward.

Vault height: 1.35 m (4 ft., 5 in.)

Vault length: 1.2 m (3 ft., 11 in.)

Vault width: 95 cm (3 ft., 1 in.)

Approach run: 25 m (82 ft.)

Men's artistic gymnastics events

Horizontal bar

The single horizontal bar, also called the high bar, features high-flying release moves and complex dismounts.

The gymnast must execute the swings and turns in seamless succession, including at least one release-and-regrasp move, and different grip directions.

Like the women, men will perform half or full pirouettes — or handstand circles — while at the top of the bar, in addition to giants to build momentum into dismounts.

Who to watch: Brody Malone, who won the U.S. championships all-around title, also took first place in this event with several stunning releases and a stuck dismount.

Height: 2.8 m (9 ft., 2 in.)

Length: 2.4 m (7 ft., 9 in.)

Diameter: 2.8 cm (1 in.)

Parallel bars

Routines include a series of swing and flight skills above, below and between the bars without touching the ground. Gymnasts occasionally pause in handstands between skills but should not do this more than a few times.

When performing flips, the gymnast's upper arms often bear the weight of "landings," which can appear awkward and painful, but are intentional and required. The most difficult flips — also called "saltos" — are the ones where the gymnast must release, lose sight of the bars and control a blind finish of the skill.

Who or what to watch for: Curran Phillips, who was an NCAA parallel bars champion for Stanford in 2022, has gone on to medal in this event in several other national and international competitions.

Height: 2 m (6 ft., 6 in.)

Width: 42 to 52 cm (16.5 to 20.5 in.)

Length: 3.5 m (11 ft., 5 in.)

Pommel horse

What the beam is for women, the pommel horse is for men. This incredibly difficult apparatus consists of constant movements across the horse and over the pommel handles, supported only by the hands and shoulders, while the legs should not touch the equipment at all.

Most skills are in circular motions, but there are also required scissor and handstand elements that are judged on body and leg extension. Hand movements should be quiet and quick, transitioning from one skill to the next without breaks.

Who to watch: Patrick Hoopes recently won the NCAA title on this event for Air Force and took second at the U.S. championships.

Height: 1.15 m (3 ft., 9 in.)

Length: 1.6 m (5 ft., 3 in.)

Width: 35 cm (13.5 in.)

Distance between pommels: 40 to 45 cm (15.5 to 17.5 in.)

Height of pommels: 12 cm (4.5 in.)


One of the most recognizable men's gymnastics events, the rings are a feat of upper-body strength. The rings should remain still throughout the routine, including at the end of each skill. Signs of instability result in deductions.

Routines require swings into at least one handstand and to other "hold" strength skills, but transitions should be otherwise seamless from one skill to the next.

Skill to watch: A cross variety — holding the body in a straight T or L position — is an example of the strength skills required. The length of the hold is key; to get credit, the gymnast must hold the position for at least two seconds.

Ring diameter: 18 cm (7 in.)

Ring separation: 50 cm (1 ft., 8 in.)

Height from floor: 2.8 m (9 ft., 2 in.)