Obstacle Course Gymnastics? Yes. Just Don’t Expect Something Along the Lines of Tough Mudder

While the rest of the world was reading about the IOC doing inspections on Paris and Los Angeles, preparatory to making its final recommendation on the 2024 Games, something happened in the world of gymnastics that indoor facilities – and equipment suppliers – will need to be aware of.

The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (or International Gymnastics Federation, FIG) gave its in-principle approval for the inclusion of a new FIG discipline based on obstacle course competitions.

And no, that doesn’t mean gymnasts will be crawling through mud or doing any of those nasty things requiring ice water or electric shocks.

The result: A possible World Cup series in 2018 and 2019 and World Championships in 2020 where this shows up.

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 will take place on May 28, 2017, during the 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, is the FIG’s eighth, alongside Gymnastics for All, Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic, Trampoline, Acrobatic and Aerobic.

So what can indoor facilities expect to learn from this? Nothing – at least not immediately. After all, much remains to be decided in terms of the types of equipment needed, and the time frame for when it will become necessary. But suppliers of gymnastics equipment would do well to mention this to facility owners who are looking to upgrade their facilities – if for no other reason than to keep it at the back of their minds, so that they allow adequate time to call if and when new equipment becomes necessary.

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