The story of our life. Every rhythmic gymnast has heard the famous question: "Can you do a flip?". And when we tell people that not really, they get very confused. They might say, "I thought you did gymnastics?", "What about the bars?" or the worst one of them all: "That's right, you do the dancing with the ribbon!"
Whether you are one of those who has asked these questions before or one of those who had to answer it, this post is for you. We will explain what rhythmic gymnastics is, the differences between rhythmic and artistic and how they cannot be compared. Going through all the details we will answer the big questions, why don't rhythmic gymnasts do flips?
Although it seems like a straight forward question to answer there is more than one answer to this, starting with the most obvious one, flips are a skill that belongs to ARTISTIC gymnastics, a completely different discipline. Artistic gymnastics is a discipline with many skills done in the air performed on asymmetric bars, balance beam, floor, or vault -for women-; and it has a completely different set of rules (all stated in their own Code of Points). They aim for different executions with flights (aka flippy things).
Rhythmic gymnastics, on the other hand, is a discipline that requires the gymnast to perform different routines that combine dance steps, body difficulties such as balances, flexibility skills, or leaps; and difficulties with clubs, hoop, rope, ball or a ribbon, that we call apparatuses.
Asking a rhythmic gymnast why she doesn't do a flip is like asking an artistic gymnast why she doesn't use a ribbon, it's just not part of their sport.
Here's what the Code of Points says about acrobatic elements allowed in rhythmic gymnastics:
Yeah, Rhythmic has acrobatic elements, but your body needs to be in touch with the floor. One could argue that some aerials or back tuck could be part of the routine anyway, right? You see, the Olympic Panel established the Code of Points in a way that rhythmic gymnastics stayed separated from artistic gymnastics to keep it unique and original, avoiding to make the two disciplines too similar. This is an essential measure to take when developing new sports, and it worked! Nowadays, we see that a rhythmic gymnast and artistic gymnast have a completely different set of skills.
Safety is another big reason for the no-flip policy. A rhythmic gymnastics mat has springs that make the floor bouncy and it's layered, which absorbs impact and it's softer. It's a safe environment to perform tumbling skills. The rhythmic gymnastics mat is a simple mat as thick as the one you have in your bedroom. In rhythmic, we need the floor to be harder so it's easier to spin and hold balances and for the apparatuses to bounce against it. It's the perfect floor for the routine requirements, but it won't protect you from a fall off a great height. Therefore it would be too risky to perform any flips.
To conclude we will say Rhythmic gymnastics it's an amazing sport with stunning and difficult elements as it is. Maybe we don't do need flips to make the sport appealing after all?