By Gina Pongetti Angeletti

Four. Not five, or six, but four. But really, maybe six?

There are 12 total countries that qualify for the Olympics. And four is officially the number of members on each qualifying country’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic team. Then, there are individual spots up for grabs. But who gets those spot? Who competes for the team, who competes as an individual? And what will they wear?

Stuttgart 2019 will answer some of those questions, but not all. The World Cup series will fill in more of the blanks. But not all.

Photo by Grace Chiu

For the men and the women, countries are changing their strategy of who to send and how to prepare for this upcoming year. For men, the four-person team is even harder to determine since they have six events to find all-around competitors to cover, in contrast to the women’s four. However, there are “twists” to any country’s potential story: a specialist spot and an extra all-around spot.


Let’s walk you through it!





How do you qualify?

  • 1) Team Spot: Be a really good team from a really good country and be in the top three in 2018 at Worlds. That was Doha, and for the women, the U.S., Russia and China qualified. For the men, China, Russia and Japan stamped their team tickets to Tokyo.
  • Try again, or try harder this year in Stuttgart (as in, these next two weeks), as a nation and finish in the top 9 (they take 12 teams total and the teams already qualified don’t count toward the remaining 9).
  • 2) Event Specialist. Be really, really good on one event. (Or try for two, or more, and hope one works out!) You have to be good many times, though, and not just have a lucky day. It is called a Cup series for a reason! Four countries, two years in a row. We are four down, with four to go. For the U.S., Jade Carey is nearly there. If she wins one more, she is in—and on her way to Tokyo. Note that this is an individual spot. If the qualifying individual gets sick or injured, or just decides they don’t want to be an Olympian, the spot is not replaceable.
  • If that doesn’t work, continue to work really hard and hope your country chooses you because you are really good at one (or more) events.
  • 3) Country All-Around Spot—World Cup Series. This one has two parts. First, your country has to rise above for a points total that wins (only one) over three World Cup meets out of four. This earns your country the “spot.” However, the country chooses who actually gets the spot and competes at some point before the Olympics. So, be nice, and work hard. You will not, however, contribute to the “team” medal or competition. They also actually make you wear a different uniform so that everyone knows the four team members, and your scores (along with the scores of the potential event specialist) do not contribute to the overall team total. But, you do get to rotate along with them, so there’s that.
  • 4) Continental Championships – All-Around (Country’s Choice!) Spot. Each continent has a championships. Ours is called the Pan American Games. In 2020, May 7-10, the top two all-around medalists (in a showdown 24-person finals format) earn a spot—not for themselves, but for their country—with the obvious hope that if they win, they would be considered for the Olympic spot.

Overall, this format rewards consistency, actually, with point totals accumulating over the course of many meets, and makes this process much more interesting. And you thought baseball was the only sport where people kept running statistics of batting averages and total homers.

So, check your nerves at the door. And basically, work really hard so that when your country has their selection competition(s) or camps or both (for the U.S., June of 2020), they pick you for either one of the four team spots, or the one all-around spot.

Let’s get the spreadsheets ready, gymnerds.

Additional Fun Facts:

  • You have to turn 16 during the Olympic year. So technically, on or before December 31 of 2020. That means many of the athletes competing as juniors this year will age up next year and give the seniors and veterans a run for their money. Don’t get comfortable up there!
  • The five-person team returns for 2024. So if you are 13, or the parent of someone who is born before January 1st of 2025, start studying French and learning the new rules.