How This Year’s World Championships Works


With team and individual qualification slots feeding into next year’s Olympic Games, this year’s world championships is a little more than just worlds. Many of you have asked exactly how all of this works, and it can definitely get very confusing. Hopefully we’ll be able to clear up some of your questions!

Who Can Compete at the Olympics?

98 women will qualify to the Olympic Games in 2016. This includes 12 teams with 5 gymnasts on each team, for a total of 60 coming from team spots. The remaining 38 women will earn berths as individuals in some capacity.

Teams Qualifying from Worlds

The teams that place in the top 8 at qualifications at the 2015 world championships automatically earn a team spot in Rio. The teams that qualify in the 9th through 16th spots in Glasgow will continue on to the Pre-Olympic Test Event, held in Rio from April 16-24 next year. From the Test Event, the top four teams will qualify to the Olympic Games, for a total of 12 teams.

It’s unlikely that there will be a tie for 8th place, but in that case, the tie-breaker rules used in all-around qualifications will likely apply, where the lowest event score is dropped and the remaining three event scores are totaled.

Individuals Qualifying from Worlds

Only a tiny handful of gymnasts can qualify as individuals from worlds. All apparatus finals medalists who aren’t part of the 8 qualifying teams earn automatic bids to the Olympic Games. These spots are nominative, meaning they belong only to the gymnasts who earn them and can’t be transferred between gymnasts in the same country.

Let’s use Germany as an example and pretend Elisabeth Seitz gets silver on bars.

  • Scenario 1: Germany reaches the top 8 during qualifications. They have reached their maximum 5 spots in Rio as a team so Seitz does not earn an individual berth and must make her country’s team in the following year.
  • Scenario 2: Germany doesn’t reach the top 16 during qualifications and fails to earn a team spot at the Test Event. Seitz earns an individual spot due to her bars finish. If she gets injured and can’t compete in Rio, however, she loses that spot. Germany can’t just hand it over to someone else.
  • Scenario 3: Germany doesn’t reach the top 8 during qualifications, but goes on to earn a spot at the Test Event. Seitz technically qualified through an apparatus medal spot, but if Germany gets a team spot in April, Seitz can no longer be qualified as an apparatus medalist.

Basically, it’s very difficult to qualify as an individual to the Olympic Games through this year’s worlds because for the most part, the majority of event medalists are from countries that qualify full teams. In 2011, Phan Thi Ha Thanh of Vietnam medaled on vault and her team didn’t qualify at either opportunity, so she was able to attend the Olympic Games through her apparatus medal berth.

Can that happen to anyone this year? If it does, vault is the most likely place where it will, as there are several strong vaulters from nations that almost certainly won’t qualify teams, including Hong Un Jong, Giulia Steingruber, and Marcia Vidiaux. On the other events, it’s highly unlikely that a gymnast outside of the top teams will medal. In 2014, all medalists aside from Hong were from “big 4” countries – China, USA, Romania, and Russia – all of which are essentially guaranteed team spots.

Who Goes to the Test Event?

We’ve established that the teams to place 9th through 16th at this year’s worlds qualifications get to send full teams to the Test Event, where the team competition features the same 6-5-4 format as worlds. So 48 gymnasts competing on teams will attend.

As for individuals? Nations that have teams at this year’s worlds but do not qualify to either the Olympics or the Test Event – aka the teams that place 17th-24th in qualifications – are allowed to send 2 gymnasts to the Test Event whereas nations who sent gymnasts to worlds without full teams this year can send 1 gymnast. A total of 40 gymnasts competing as individuals in this way are allowed to attend.

Finally, nations that qualified teams or apparatus medal spots at worlds are also allowed to attend, but their results won’t count. Qualified teams are allowed to send 2 gymnasts, and they basically use the meet as practice, i.e. for new seniors who didn’t get the chance to compete at worlds due to age restrictions.

Using the Test Event to Qualify for Rio

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. As we’ve said, the top 4 teams at the Test Event qualify full teams to worlds. That’s the easy part. But what about the individuals?

Nations not represented by full teams are each allowed to qualify one gymnast to the Olympic Games. But of course, there are exceptions to this one-per-country rule.

  • Universality: The African, American, Asian, and European continents must each be represented by at least two gymnasts while Oceania must be represented by at least one gymnast. In the last quad, Africa didn’t have anyone who could qualify on her own, however, so they benefited from this exception. Because Egypt was the only country with gymnasts prepared to compete, Egypt got to send two despite the one-per-country rule, in order to fulfill the universality requirement. But this time around, it looks as though all continents should be able to qualify at least two gymnasts on their own. There are currently some very strong gymnasts representing several African countries who will definitely make it on their own merit (most notably Farah Boufadene of Algeria and Kirsten Beckett of South Africa), so I don’t think they’ll need to rely on this exception. Just so you know, these spots are nominative, meaning they go to the athlete, not the National Olympic Committee.
  • Tripartite: The Olympic Tripartite Commission is allowed to name one gymnast of their choosing to an Olympic berth. The OTC is comprised of members of the International Olympic Committee, the Association of National Olympic Committees, and the International Gymnastics Federation. This exception applies to countries that have qualified six or fewer athletes to the last two Olympic Games. These countries have to apply by a certain date to be considered, and the OTC will choose from this group.
  • Apparatus Medalists: What if you’re from a country that has already qualified an apparatus medalist or two? Gymnasts from these countries are still allowed to qualify individuals through the all-around competition at the Test Event meaning they too could have multiple individuals from the same country. Again, using Vietnam from last quad as an example, we saw Phan qualify through her vault medal at 2011 worlds, and then her teammate Do Thi Ngan Thuong earned a spot of her own through the Test Event, so Vietnam got to have two gymnasts in London.

What else do you need to know about individual qualification? The most important is that the host country also gets a spot whether they qualify or not. I think this will end up being moot this quad, as Brazil should likely qualify a full team and if they don’t for some reason, they certainly have several individual gymnasts who could challenge for an all-around spot. But say everyone falls repeatedly and they miss out, they would still be awarded an individual berth, which would go to a gymnast of the nation’s choosing.

In terms of those who qualify as individuals at the test event, their spots are not nominative, meaning they’re awarded to the national federation, not to the athlete who earned the spot. This is unlike the apparatus medal winner qualification, which is specific to the athlete. Let’s say Belgium doesn’t qualify a full team, and Gaelle Mys finishes as their strongest all-arounder to earn an individual spot for her country. Good for her, but her country can decide to give that spot to someone else.

The number of individuals to earn spots from the Test Event depends on how many qualify as apparatus medalists from worlds…and don’t forget the Tripartite and host nation spots. There are technically 38 spots open for non-team gymnasts, but that becomes 36 once you consider the host country spot and the Tripartite spot. Since we assume Brazil won’t need the host nation spot, let’s make it 37 individual spots and 1 Tripartite spot. Here are some examples of how this could go.

Scenario 1: Brazil qualifies a full team at worlds, 1 apparatus medalist qualifies from worlds. This is the most realistic scenario for 2016.

Apparatus Tripartite Host Country Individual AA Total
1 1 0 36 38

Scenario 2: Brazil qualifies a full team at the Test Event, no apparatus medalists qualify from worlds. This scenario is also pretty realistic.

Apparatus Tripartite Host Country Individual AA Total
0 1 0 37 38

Scenario 3: Brazil doesn’t qualify at worlds and then misses the Test Event. They don’t qualify anyone. 2 apparatus medalists qualify from worlds.

Apparatus Tripartite Host Country Individual AA Total
2 1 1 34 38

Scenario 4: Brazil makes it, but Valentina poisoned all of the top teams at worlds, so the event podiums were full of Russians and non-team gymnasts.

Apparatus Tripartite Host Country Individual AA Total
6 1 0 31 38

Scenario 5: Hell freezes over, Brazil doesn’t qualify, only non-team gymnasts win event medals at worlds.

Apparatus Tripartite Host Country Individual AA Total
12 1 1 24 38

Note in all of these scenarios, the Tripartite spot is always there, but the apparatus spots and host country spots can change, which determines the amount of spots available to individual all-arounders who compete at the test event. Make sense?

Nominative vs Non-Nominative

We’ve kind of explained the difference between nominative and non-nominative already, but here’s a refresher. Basically, if a spot is nominative – like the apparatus finals spot – it goes to the gymnast who earned it. If that gymnast can’t compete, it goes to the first reserve in the all-around qualifier at the Test Event. If a spot is non-nominative, it doesn’t matter which gymnast earned it – it belongs to the country’s National Olympic Committee, who can then decide who to send.

Are You a Genius Yet?

So, how did we do? Do you understand the process or are you still bursting with questions and concerns? Let us know in the comments if there’s anything you still don’t understand and we’re happy to help.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

29 thoughts on “How This Year’s World Championships Works

  1. I was reading this and was really into it, then got to “after Valentina Rodionenko poisons the water supply in Rio” and now I’m laughing.

    Appreciate the details!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If I remember correctly, the tripartite spot is for countries that have an NOC, but have qualified no or very few athletes to the Games, period. The countries interested in receiving a tripartite berth have to apply by a certain date – the idea is that these berths are offered in all sports and you pick your country’s best athlete to apply for the tripartite spot in his/her sport.


  3. Thank you so much! This was super helpful, and it clarifies just how difficult it is to qualify as an individual from a non- major program. This is definitely helpful when trying to process the situation in Belarus, and seeing what actually has to happen in order to qualify for Rio. Thanks!


  4. This is SO helpful. Thank you for breaking it down!

    One (possibly dumb) question: If a gymnast qualifies through an apparatus final, do they get to do all-around at the olympics, or do they only get to do the one event through which they qualified?


  5. Litteraly choked/spit coffee all over my screen at the Valentina poisoning everyone 😂

    Thank you Lauren for being fabulous and fun while bringing great info!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Now lets say each country from the top 8 teams in Glasgow sends 2 girls to compete at the test event. All 16 of these girls are in the top 37 all around. Are their scores bypassed so that girls that ranked lower can go to Rio?


  7. You said that the spots from worlds to test event are nominative. What happens if the qualified gymnast can’t go because she is injured? May anyone else from the country go?
    Another thing that is not clear to me, the nations who didn’t qualify teams to the olympics or test event can send 2 or 1 gymnasts to the test event. So the best one or two all around gymnasts for these countrys qualify then? No matter what place they had?


    • Yes, from Worlds to the Test Event, the country can send another gymnast. And yes, placement doesn’t matter…it’s the best AAers. Same with qualifying to the Olympics from the test event…it’s about filling the spots, not about your placement in the AA.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Could you explain the 5 up 4 down (or whatever it is) process of preliminaries? as in, how many people perform on each apparatus, and how many scores count?


  9. Pingback: Worlds 2015: All you need to know - Full Twist

  10. Pingback: The Olympic and Test Event Qualifiers | The Gymternet

    • That’s what the FIG site said in their explanation but I think they might be incorrect. They also said “maximum 24 AA from Test Event to the Olympics” but they meant minimum…it’s like 24 min, 38 max.


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