The 2 per country rule


Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson takes a look at the two per country rule and shares her opinion.

 We’re all familiar with the 2-per country rule that allows a maximum of two gymnasts from each country to qualify to a World or Olympic final. Since its beginnings after the 2001 World Championships, the 2-per country rule has been disputed, but it was particularly problematic when world champion Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify to the 2012 Olympic all-around because her score was lower than that of her two U.S. teammates.

            Other incidences that occurred due to this rule:

  • Anastasia Grishina (RUS), Jennifer Pinches (GBR), Yao Jinnan (CHN) didn’t qualify to the 2012 Olympic all-around
  • Kyla Ross (USA) didn’t qualify to the 2012 Olympic balance beam final
  • Gabby Douglas, Sabrina Vega, McKayla Maroney (USA), and Tan Sixin (CHN) didn’t qualify to the 2011 World all-around
  • Jiang Yuyuan (CHN) didn’t qualify to the 2011 World all-around, 2011 World beam final, or the 2010 World bars final
  • Aly Raisman (USA) and Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS) didn’t qualify the 2010 World beam final
  • Bridget Sloan (USA), Deng Linlin (CHN), and Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS) didn’t qualify to the 2008 Olympic all-around
  • Alicia Sacramone (USA) didn’t qualify to the balance beam final at the 2008 Olympics

Here is the problem with the 2-per country rule: it eliminates gymnasts who have good medal opportunities from competing in the finals.

What would be the best idea to change the system? Should we go back to the 3-per country rule that was in place all the way through the 2001 Worlds? But there were still issues with that rule. For instance, even if the limit had stayed at three gymnasts per country, Sabrina Vega and McKayla Maroney would have still been eliminated from the 2011 World all-around final.

A stretch to a 4-per country rule would most likely solve the problem, but at that point, I don’t see why you wouldn’t just remove the limit altogether. Personally, I would like to see any qualification restrictions taken away. Imagine the excitement if all four members of the World Championship teams this year could compete in the all-around!

Another question that has long been debated is the 24 gymnast all-around field. It used to be 36 gymnasts, back when the 3-per country rule was in place.

I think 24 is a fair number. It certainly would be interesting to have only 24 gymnasts without any limitation rule.

Bruno Grandi, president of the FIG, has stated that Olympic qualification is one of the main issues the FIG will address in the next four years. Hopefully the 2-per country rule will vanish. I think that anything, including the 3-per country rule, would be better than our current system.

Still, it seems doubtful that the rule will change before this year’s Worlds. Of course, it could be interesting if all four gymnasts on the U.S. team were vying for the two spots in the all-around final. It seems like it could be a possible scenario, because at the 2009 World Championships, the U.S. sent the top three all-arounders and a vault/floor specialist (Kayla Williams), who was also an all-arounder. After the retirement of Alicia Sacramone, the U.S. is left with a handful of gymnasts with two vaults (McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles, MyKayla Skinner, Elizabeth Price, Lexie Priessman), and all of them are all-arounders.

And the Russian showdown should be interesting in Antwerp, as well. The team could quite possibly be made up of Aliya Mustafina, Viktoria Komova, Anastasia Grishina, and Ksenia Afanasyeva, and they all could compete in the all-around.

But there would undoubtedly be disappointment with these scenarios. And it would be the fault of the 2-per country rule. I hope that the rule is changed soon.

What is your opinion on the two per country rule? Share your view in the comments below

Image via Getty Images.


  1. Anthony says:

    The two per country rule is utter rubbish. Let the best gymnasts qualify, regardless from which country they come from. Yes, that might not make a diverse finale, but so what? If gymnasts from other countries cannot win from ‘the big ones’, they’ll just have to work harder. And seriously, who cares about a gymnast from (to name a random country) Laos who falls over and over again and is only in the finale because the two-per-country rule made sure better gymnasts aren’t in it. (OK, this example might be exaggerated, but you know what I mean, right?) I’m sure every gymnastics fan wants to see the best gymnasts get rewarded for their hard work instead of some silly rule giving gifts to other lesser goddesses.

  2. Pascale says:

    I totally agree with this one! It is a shame for the beautiful sport of gymnastics that NOT the best 24 gymnasts compete in the all around final.

    How can you explain this stupid rule to a 16 year old girl (change ‘a … year old girl’ to any name you think of that can possibly win a medal!) who trained her whole life for this!

    It’s like saving every dollar you can miss your whole life and finally have enough money to buy the house you wanted most, the house of your dreams. And then your bank tells you that another family just moved in. They didn’t have enough money but they got the house anyway, because the bank just gave it to them!

    There will be not as many countries in the finals as we are used to, but I think that is not a shame. The countries that will be represented are the best countries with the best gymnasts. I’m sure the other gymnasts train as hard as they do, but they are just not good enough.

    Let the best gymnasts compete!

    And you are so right about the excitement factor! Think about it, it’s like all 24 of the competitiors are good enough to medal! Think about these past finals! It would have been so excited to see finals were really everyone could potentially medal!

  3. Daniel says:

    All rules limiting the number of gymnasts from a country to qualify should go.

    What do they call it? Oh yeah, “INDIVIDUAL ALL-AROUND.” I’m sorry, but team competition is team competition – and the all-around needs to be best-of-the-best without discrimination. Punishing spectacular and beautiful athletes for being born in the wrong country is truly abominable.

    The “large” countries that the rule is out to harm have already done their due diligence and made the tough choices of who to send to these competitions. No additional useless and harmful limits need apply.

    I still get choked up on Wieber. Would she have won gold in London? My guess is no – but even if she competed and came in 24th, that would have been better than the atrocity of the FOURTH HIGHEST SCORING GYMNAST IN THE WORLD not being “good enough” to compete – and handouts being given to the less talented.

    Please please abolish all limits.

  4. Nico says:

    The 2 per country rules is whether positive or negative. The positive is that the gymnast don’t have rivalry in their own country. The negative is that the IT SHOULD BE GYMNAST who qualify didn’t have the chance of redeem their performance.

  5. Rien says:

    I personally like the rule, and heres why. Aside from Jordyn Wieber, and perhaps Jiang Yuyuan in bars 2010, non of the gymnasts who missed out really had a shot of medaling. So who cares? I get that they want to compete blah blah blah but if they really dont have a shot at a medal, I dont see what the big deal is. And of course if we change the rule to three, then someone who is forth to qualify is going to make a big fuss. Then they change it to four, and the fifth person makes a big fuss. Then they get rid of the rule all together. Now we are stuck watching a bar final of 5 russians and 3 chinese, or vice versa. A vault final of 5 Americans and three randoms. A beam final of Romanians and Chinese …etc. I personally love watching Chuso, Barbosa, Steingruber, Hong Un Jong on vault. Seitz, dufournet, Kononenko, Downie on bars. Raisman, Komova, Milliousi, Ferlito on beam. Mitchell, Ferarri, blah blah blah on floor. All these gymnasts would quit if they never even qualified to anything. And what reason would these countries even have to finance their gymnastics programs if every year they said” oh yea we went to Worlds and did not qualify one gymnast anywhere” Obviously this is an exageration but you get the point. I think its great that the randoms get a chance to be seen, even though they have no shot at medaling, because the spots they are “taking” have no chance of medaling either. So whats the harm in giving some other countries a minute in the limelight? The sport is about bringing countries together in a sport we all love. Not about having Russia, USA, China and Romania be number one everyday all day. That get mighty boring in my opinion.

  6. Clare says:

    I think that it only seems extreme in this one case. Yes it sucks that she qualified in fourth. But if she had qualified in 24th and was cut, not a single person would care. Whether the rule stays or goes, I think we need to look at everyone equally, not just Jordyn. Everyone (generalization I know) is/was outraged because she didnt qualify but no fucks were given to Grish, etc etc. Without a doubt this would not even be talked about STILL if Jordyn wasnt part of it. Noone cared in 2011. Noone cared in 2010. Noone cared in 2009. Noone card in 2008, need I go on. Also Ivana Hong was a beam specialist in 2009 Worlds not an AAer. There is a difference between competing on all four events, and being an AAer. Maroney is not an AAer. Yes she can do every apparatus but she would never compete in an AA competition. Also it is unlikely for the russians to send 4 AAers to battle it out like the Americans. They are going to send whoever will get them the most medals. Why would they send Grishina when she mosty likely wont qualify for the AA or any event finals? They are better sending Paseka the only one who can medal on vault.

  7. kimia says:

    I think first world citizens just don’t get it. If a gymnast from africa or asia (except china) or south america can’t beat an american or a russian they should WORK HARDER?! are you kidding me? all these gymnasts have worked equally hard, it’s just a question of better couching, better equipment, and a better future as an athlete (sponsorships or college sports) , ie. more MONEY. money that these athletes and their programs won’t get, unless they medal, which is highly unlikely, or at least MAKE A FINAL.
    Jordyn Weiber didn’t make aa finals, but her future is secure compared to yamilet pena aberu, jade babosa, or Phan Thi Ha Thanh.
    but you don’t care about their futures, do you? All you want is a good show…

  8. maurice says:

    Should back with 36 in the AA and 3 per country for AA and events finals…
    I am agree…Hope that they will considered back this rule..!!


  9. D says:

    I think the rule should be abolished. I want to see the best gymnasts in the AA. It’s fair for everyone too. Sport is sport.

    Another suggestion to give others a ‘chance’ to compete, is that the top 12 (half of 24) are definite, even if it’s 4 USA, 4 Russia, 4 Chinese. I can´t think of a competition where someone outside the top 10 then medalled in the AA.

    For apparatus finals, I’d make perhaps a 3 per country rule and have the top 10 gymnasts. Why only 8? I also think that many other countries would qualify anyway if they have really good gymnasts (Italy, Spain, Australia, UK, Germany etc).

    In terms of saying first world citizens don´t get it, that’s quite offensive for a start. Also until the UK got the olympics there was almost no money invested in gymnastics. Ditto Spain and Australia. Also, China and Russia are emerging economies and classes as Second World countries. Romania is one of the poorest EU countries and has some of the best gymnasts. The rise of the US to near domination only happened about 20 years ago. Before that it was nearly all USSR, Romania, East Germany, China and Japan.

    The qualifications is the time for everyone to shine, but in the finals it’s not just a show, it’s unfair on everyone to have a 50th placed gymnast ranked 24th.

    I’d also go back to bigger teams that have actual depth and not just 3 or 4 amazing gymnasts. Finals would be top 4 teams not top 6, with more gymnasts competing. 5th placed teams have never moved up to 3rd.

    I’d let gymnast warm up in the arena, to give us our money’s worth for tickets.

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