Gymnastics

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Gymnastics Gives OK to Obstacle Course Discipline: What Event Planners Need to Know

14 Jun, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Opposition Brewing from Countries, NGBs, Other Sports

There’s a new gymnastics discipline in town, based on obstacle course racing, and event owners will need to be aware of it. The good news, though, is that it won’t involve mud, burpees or gnarly obstacles with names like Arctic Enema and ElectroShock Therapy.

The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (or International Gymnastics Federation, FIG) has given its in-principle approval for the inclusion of a new FIG discipline based on obstacle course competitions. If the new discipline receives full approval, gymnastics can expect to see it in a possible World Cup series in 2018 and 2019 and World Championships in 2020.

According to FIG, two formats of competitive obstacle course events are expected in the new discipline:

  • The "Obstacle Course Sprint, " an against-the-clock format.

  • The Obstacle Course Freestyle," based on performances that will be judged.

The courses for these competitions, while mainly artificial, are based on real-world shapes found in urban and natural environments.

The first event under the FIG's auspices was held during the recent FISE (kind of an international X-Games) in Montpellier, France.

For the organization of these planned competitions and initiations, the FIG has partnered with the Mouvement International du Parkour, Freerunning et l'Art du déplacement and the APEX School of Movement as well as JUMP Freerun.

Historically, obstacle courses are not an entirely new phenomenon. Military Gymnastics training in countries like France, Germany and Sweden during the 19th century included techniques for overcoming obstacles – and Parkour has long been considered an inspiration for the obstacle course competitions of today.

The next FIG Executive Committee in Norway, to be held this summer, will lay the groundwork for a series of World Cups in 2018 and 2019. The new discipline, which has not been officially named, would be the FIG's eighth, alongside Gymnastics for All, Men's and Women's Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic, Trampoline, Acrobatic and Aerobic.

It hasn't been universally well-received, however. Despite the FIG president's longstanding enthusiasm for parkour, there has been significant pushback from that sport. The Australian Parkour Association, for example, terms the new discipline "encroachment and misappropriation." And the New Zealand Parkour Association seconds that. Parkour UK stands equally in opposition. The use of parkour in a timed manner or with a performance-judged aspect  (it has previously not been a competitive sport at all) is an enormous point of contention.

So what can event owners expect to learn from this? Perhaps nothing initially. After all, this is only an in-principle agreement on the new discipline. Even if it is to be implemented, much remains to be decided in terms of the types of obstacles to be used, the type of training athletes would need, and the time frame for when it will become necessary. But event owners would do well to mention it to athletes who may be interested, or to local clubs intent on getting involved with it. FIG suggested the new discipline be included in the 2020 Tokyo Games, but this was turned down.

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