Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport in which individuals or teams of 5 manipulate one or two pieces of apparatus: clubs, hoop, ball, ribbon, rope and Free (no apparatus). An individual athlete only manipulates 1 apparatus at a time. When multiple gymnasts are performing a routine together a maximum of two types of apparatus may be distributed through the group. An athlete can exchange apparatus with a team member at any time through the routine. Therefore, an athlete can manipulate up to two different pieces of apparatus through the duration of the routine. Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, dance, and apparatus manipulation. The victor is the participant who earns the most points, determined by a panel of judges, for leaps, balances, pirouettes (pivots), flexibilities, apparatus handling, execution, and artistic effect.
The governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique
(FIG), changed the Code of Points in 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2008 to
emphasize technical elements and reduce the subjectivity of judging.
Before 2001, judging was on a scale of 10 like that of artistic gymnastics.
It was changed to a 30-point scale in 2003, a 20-point scale in 2005,
and in 2008 was changed back to 30. There are three values adding up to
be the final points—technical, artistic, and execution. The FIG also
selects which apparatus will be used in competitions; only four out of
the five possible apparatuses are sanctioned. Up to 2010, the clubs were
not used at the Senior level. For 2011 rope
will be dropped for senior national individual and group competition.
In 2011, it will be dropped for junior national individual competition
but return again in 2015. Rope appears in Junior National group
competition in 2011-2012. 
International competitions are split between Juniors, under sixteen
by their year of birth; and Seniors, for women sixteen and over again by
their year of birth. Gymnasts in Russia and Europe typically start
training at a very young age and those at their peak are typically in
their late teens (15–19) or early twenties. The largest events in the
sport are the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup and Grand-Prix Tournaments.
Rhythmic gymnastics grew out of the ideas of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727–1810), François Delsarte
(1811–1871), and Rudolf Bode (1881–1970), who all believed in movement
expression, where one used dance to express oneself and exercise various
body parts. Peter Henry Ling further developed this idea in his 19th-century Swedish
system of free exercise, which promoted "aesthetic gymnastics", in
which students expressed their feelings and emotions through bodily
movement. This idea was extended by Catharine Beecher, who founded the Western Female Institute in Ohio,
United States, in 1837. In Beecher's gymnastics program, called "grace
without dancing", the young women exercised to music, moving from simple
calisthenics to more strenuous activities.
During the 1880s, Émile Jaques-Dalcroze of Switzerland developed eurhythmics, a form of physical training for musicians and dancers. George Demeny of France
created exercises to music that were designed to promote grace of
movement, muscular flexibility, and good posture. All of these styles
were combined around 1900 into the Swedish school of rhythmic
gymnastics, which would later add dance elements from Finland. Around this time, Ernst Idla of Estonia
established a degree of difficulty for each movement. In 1929, Hinrich
Medau founded The Medau School in Berlin to train gymnasts in "modern
gymnastics", and to develop the use of the apparatus.
Competitive rhythmic gymnastics began in the 1940s in the Soviet Union. The FIG formally recognized this discipline in 1961, first as modern gymnastics, then as rhythmic sportive gymnastics, and finally as rhythmic gymnastics. The first World Championships for individual rhythmic gymnasts was held in 1963 in Budapest. Groups were introduced at the same level in 1967 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Rhythmic gymnastics was added to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, with an Individual All-Around competition. However, many federations from the Eastern European countries were forced to boycott by the Soviet Union. Canadian Lori Fung was the first rhythmic gymnast to earn an Olympic gold medal. The Group competition was added to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The Spanish group won the first gold medal of the new competition with a team formed by Estela Giménez, Marta Baldó, Nuria Cabanillas, Lorena Guréndez, '''Estíbaliz Martínez''' and Tania Lamarca.