Is There a Height Limit for Gymnastics?

Lots of people look at the small and stocky build of elite gymnasts and wonder if there is a height limit for gymnastics. The answer is that there is no height limit or maximum height rule but it is true that gymnastics becomes harder the taller you get.

Newton’s three laws of motion, especially the first law of inertia, are key to understanding how gymnasts perform flips and somersaults. Whether you like it or not shorter gymnasts find it easier to learn these advanced skills. There are lots of other factors at play as well such as flexibility, body tension, strength but height does have an effect as well.

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How Tall is Too Tall for Gymnastics?

If you are looking to learn gymnastics for fun then there is no height that is too tall. Gymnastics is a sport for everyone and people of all shapes, sizes and heights regularly take part in recreational gymnastics classes.

However, if you are looking to become an elite gymnast, height can become more of a barrier to success.

There are no specific height limits in the rule books but male artistic gymnasts are rarely over six feet tall. Women are usually around five feet tall or less. Away from Artistic gymnastics, there are some slightly taller gymnasts for example in Acrobatics where there is less emphasis on multiple somersaults and apparatus.

The base in acrobatic groups and pairs has the job of supporting smaller gymnasts as they balance on top. It is an advantage for the base to be taller and stronger so they can support the weight properly.

Are there any tall gymnasts?

There are plenty of tall gymnasts that take part at local and even national level. The harder the level of competition, the rarer it is to see tall gymnasts, especially in Artistic Gymnastics.

I should clarify that by tall, I mean average or above average in height for that age group.

In recent time Khorkina and Mustafina were 5 ft 5 in and 5 ft 4 in respectively when they medalled at the Olympics. German gymnast Marie-Sophie Hindermann was 5 ft 7 in and remains the tallest gymnast to compete at the Olympics. She is closely followed by Kylie Dickson and German gymnast Sophie Scheder who were both 5 ft 6 in.

Because gymnastics is so popular among children and teenagers, some gymnasts will be hitting puberty at different times or going through growth spurts. So gymnasts can go from being below average to tall in the space of a few weeks.

Can you be a competitive gymnast if you are tall?

Yes, you can be a competitive gymnast if you are tall but as you reach more advanced skills such as multiple twisting somersaults, you will find it harder. That doesn’t make it impossible, it just means the gymnast and coach have to adapt training methods and strength and conditioning exercises in order to get the best out of the gymnast.

Sometimes height can be an advantage. For example taller, heavier gymnasts can create more power when jumping on the springboard or reaching up to the bars at the start of a routine!

Who are the tallest gymnasts (male and female) to win a medal at the Olympics?

The tallest male gymnast to win a medal at the Olympics was Igor Cassie (5 ft 11 in). He won Gold on High Bar at the 2004 Olympics.

The tallest female to medal was Sophie Scheder (5 ft 6 in) who won Bronze on Uneven Bars at Rio 2016.

It is interesting to see that both of these ‘tall’ gymnasts won their medals on Bars.

In Rythmic gymnastics, the tallest gymnast to medal at the Olympics was Darya Dmitriyeva (5 ft 8 in) all-around silver medalist at London 2012.

Heights of female Olympic gymnasts

The table below outlines the heights of female Olympic gymnasts that have won a medal in the All-Around Artistic Gymnastics event. Over the last sixty years or so, the average heights have decreased. During the 1950s and 1960s all of the medal winners were 5 ft 2 in or over but during the 1970s and into the 80s smaller and younger gymnasts became the norm.

This coincided with advances in the apparatus design which are now able to withstand more force and harder skills.

YearGoldSilverBronze
1956
Helsinki
Larisa Latynina
5 ft 3 in
Sofia Muratova
Unknown
Polina Astakhova
5 ft 5 in
1964
Tokyo
Věra Čáslavská
5 ft 3 in
Larisa Latynina
5 ft 3 in
Polina Astakhova
5 ft 5 in
1968
Mexico City
Věra Čáslavská
5 ft 3 in
Zinaida Voronina
5 ft 5 in
Natalia Kuchinskaya
5 ft 2 in
1972
Munich
Ludmilla Tourischeva
5 ft 2 in
Karin Janz
5 ft 1 in
Tamara Lazakovich
5 ft 4 in
1976
Montreal
Nadia Comăneci
5 ft 4 in
Nellie Kim
5 ft 0 in
Ludmilla Tourischeva
5 ft 2 in
1980
Moscow
Yelena Davydova
4 ft 10 in
Nadia Comăneci
5 ft 4 in
———–
Maxi Gnauck
4 ft 10 in
None Awarded
1984
Los Angeles
Mary Lou Retton
4 ft 9 in
Ecaterina Szabo
4 ft 9 in
Simona Păucă
4 ft 11 in
1988
Seoul
Yelena Shushunova
4 ft 10 in
Daniela Silivaș
4 ft 9 in
Svetlana Boginskaya
5 ft 2 in
1992
Barcelona
Tatiana Gutsu
5 ft 3in
Shannon Miller
5 ft 0 in
Lavinia Miloșovici
5 ft 1 in
1996
Atlanta
Lilia Podkopayeva
4 ft 11 in
Gina Gogean
4 ft 11 in
Simona Amânar
5 ft 2 in
———
Lavinia Miloșovici
5 ft 1 in
2000
Sydney
Simona Amânar
5 ft 2 in
Maria Olaru
5 ft 3 in
Liu Xuan
4 ft 11 in
2004
Athens
Carly Patterson
5 ft 0 in
Svetlana Khorkina
5 ft 5 in
Zhang Nan
4 ft 10 in
2008
Beijing
Nastia Liukin
5 ft 3 in
Shawn Johnson
4 ft 11 in
Yang Yilin
5 ft 4 in
2012
London
Gabby Douglas
5 ft 3 in
Viktoria Komova
5 ft 4 in
Aliya Mustafina
5 ft 4 in
2016
Rio
Simone Biles
4 ft 8 in
Aly Raisman
5 ft 2 in
Aliya Mustafina
5 ft 4 in
2020
Tokyo
Sunisa Lee
5 ft 0 in
Rebeca Andrade
4 ft 11 in
Angelina Melnikova
5 ft 0 in
Heights of female Olympic All Around Medalists

Compare these heights with the average size of the general population and you can see that successful Olympic gymnasts are all shorter than average for their respective countries.

Average height of females:

  • USA 5 ft 3 1/2 in
  • China 5 ft 3 in
  • Russia 5 ft 5 1/2 in
  • UK 5 ft 3 1/2 in

Final Thoughts

Although there is no height limit for gymnasts, it is a proven fact that elite gymnasts are shorter than average. If you are wondering whether gymnastics stunts growth, I have an article that answers just that question here!

Gymnastics can be enjoyed by anyone, no matter how tall they are so don’t let your height put you off!