What the 2021 European Championships Tell Us About Age Trends in Gymnastics

In the past I have spent numerous articles studying the average age of gymnasts. Among the observations I have made:

A: While it is true that the average age has increased in recent decades, the sport is still overwhelmingly dominated by young athletes. Just 18.6% of gymnasts are over the age of 22 years old.

B: Younger gymnasts tend to outperform older gymnasts. This trend first becomes noticeable in the 20-21 age range. Furthermore, it tends to be very difficult for a gymnast to make it to her 23rd birthday and this can be described as the age gymnasts typically retire en masse.

C: Gymnastics has pivoted from a “hard” retirement age to a “soft” retirement age. Whereas there is still a specific age in which gymnasts retire en masse, in the past if a gymnast exceeded that specific age, she would only do so by a few years. But in the current era if a gymnast competes beyond the typical retirement age, she could easily continue competing for one, two, or even three more Olympic cycles.

D: The careers of Oksana Chusovitina and Vanessa Ferrari suggest the trend is outliers have become more common rather than women’s gymnastics losing its emphasis on younger generations.

E: To simplify the above points, a gymnast will rarely compete past the age of 22. But if she makes it to 23, there is no predicting when her career will end. It could be at age 24 or age 34.

Anastasia Bachynska

Those are the “lessons” of how age trends impact the current generation of gymnasts. So how well did the data from the 2021 European Championships hold up to the above statements? Take a look for yourself.

CountryNameAge
RussiaViktoria Listunova15
RussiaVladislava Urazova16
United KingdomJessica Gadirova16
UkraineAnastasia Bachynska17
United KingdomAmelie Morgan17
RussiaAngelina Melnikova20
FranceMelanie de Jesus dos Santos21
SwitzerlandGiulia Steingruber27
NetherlandsSanne Wevers29
ItalyVanessa Ferrari30

The above names are the ten gymnasts who won a medal at the 2021 European Championships.

50% of gymnasts who won medals at the 2021 European Championships were under the age of 18.

70% of gymnasts who won medals at the 2021 European Championships were under the 22-23 common age cutoff.

Of the three gymnasts who were over the common age cutoff, they have been been exceeding it for a significant portion of their careers including multiple Olympic quads.

Jessica Gadirova and Angelina Melnikova

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