The balance beam is one of the gymnastic apparatus’ that women only perform on in competition. The apparatus is exactly what it says on the tin; a beam that is small and thin and incredibly hard to balance on. But the gymnasts don’t just have to stand and balance on the beams, no, they have to leap, jump, twist, flip and tumble, whilst keeping complete poise and including aspects of dance. That means no stumbling or pausing and definitely no falling off the beam! In fact, a rule states that there can be no more than three pauses in a beam routine, showing again the dedication professional gymnasts need to have to perfecting their routines!
The balance beam is almost completely a female apparatus, as the dangers of slipping on the beam tends to be far more damaging to boys, leading to the apparatus’ nickname of ‘the nut-buster’. Having said that, some men do use the balance beam too.
The beam apparatus used in competition was originally made of polished wood, though modern technology has improved this option by using wood that gives a slightly sprung surface, and by covering the beam in suede or leather, to protect the athletes and for their non-slip properties! The beam is typically 1.25 metres off the ground, which is around the height of some of you! As you can imagine that it would hurt to fall off a beam the height of a ten year old! That’s why, when gymnasts are practicing and creating routines, gymnasts tend to use beams closer to the floor so that they can try new and difficult movements without the fear of falling off. If you went to a gymnasium to work on the beam, it’s likely you’d use one lower to the floor first off too.
People judging the balance beam look for, and award points for, a number of gymnastic virtues including flexibility, balance, rhythm and elegance. They also take points away for not doing the required movements, which include a 360 degree turn and a 180 degree leg split, for pausing more than three times, and for using the beam for unnecessary support. With so much to think about, no one could take this apparatus to be easy!