The death-defying tumbles and jumps performed by Olympic gymnasts on the uneven bars are a popular household favorite of the Games. Training, skill, and agility are obvious requisites for anyone who takes on the fierce competition in the Olympics, but the hand gear used is also very crucial to the performance. The equipment gymnasts use on their hands during the uneven bars routine is complex but essential.
The common term for all gymnastic hand gear is called a grip, and the dowel grip is used in gymnastic routines that incorporate some form of swinging on bars, such as the uneven bar routine, which is performed by women. Men also use a form of this gear for the high bar and still ring competitions as well. Wearing gear protects the gymnast from blisters and reduces friction between the hand and the bar. The dowel grip is typically composed of a leather strap that covers the palm of the hand and has openings for the fingers. The dowel grip also has a horizontal rod that allows the gymnast to clamp onto the bar and have a better hold during the routine, according to coach, author, and writer for gymnasticszone.com, John Howard.
In an "ask the coach" letter sent to Coach Howard, he advised that girls in Level 5 gymnastics may want to start using the gear in preparation for "giants," which is a 360-degree rotation around the bar. Coach Howard also said that some gymnasts avoid grips and undergo a process in which their hands callous, which can also serve as a protection on the bars. Another form of protective gear is athletic tape, which can also be used to combat potential blisters and friction.
The women's uneven bars final will be held Sunday, and you can bet the participants will be using grade-A equipment during the Olympic event. So far, the Olympic games have been quite intense and exciting for Team USA, with Simone Biles taking the gold and Aly Raisman taking home the silver during the women's individual all-around.
The uniform used by female gymnasts for the Olympic games has changed drastically since women first starting competing in 1900, but grip hand gear has been more consistent in its form, since the evolution of modern gymnastics.