Hopes vs. Elite

Hopes vs Elite

With the US classic and Hopes Championships coming up this weekend, I thought I would take a few minutes to explore the differences between Hopes competition and Elite competition.  The different streams and levels of competitions can be confusing so lets break it down.

The short of it is that there are several different streams and scenarios.

JO is levels 1-10.  JO has its own set of rules and requirements and its own scoring system out of a 10.0.

TOPS is a developmental strength and skill aquisition program made to maximize early gymnastics development and identify gymnasts not already in the big elite gym stream who have the talent to pursue elite gymnastics.

Hopes is a modified lower level of competition within the tops/hopes/elite stream that is basically a practice ground for future elites to compete on podium and under the FIG scoring system.

The vast majority of tops and hopes kids compete also within the JO system.  Being part of tops or hopes in no way guarantees that a gymnast will become and elite and competing in tops/hopes is not in any way required to compete in elite competitions.

Elite gymnastics competition use the FIG scoring system (not the JO 10.0 system) and the goal is to make the national team and compete internationally.

This weekend is the US Classic elite gymnastics meet with Junior and Senior elite gymnasts looking to qualify to the National Championships.  The world team and alternates from last year are the only gymnasts who automatically qualify to championships and a shot at the national team (well they can be appointed to the team whenever, but that’s not the point).  Everyone else has to go to classics and earn the qualifying score.

Also this weekend and held at the same venue but really unrelated to the US classic is the Hopes Championships.  This is the culminating meet for the Hopes season and includes the top 18 gymnasts in each age group from the Hopes Classic a few weeks ago.

I am not going to focus too much on the Elite rules and competitions. An in depth article would be needed for each event and I will get to that.  Here I plan on covering the basics of the modifications made to accomodate the lower levels of Hopes competition.  These gymnasts are generally coming off a level 8 or 9 season, maybe some 10s so there skill level isn’t quite at the elite level yet, especially on bars, so they have changes a few of the requirements for these younger, less experienced gymnasts.

The other difference in in age grouping.

Hopes has 10-11 and 12-13 age groups.  Age for the elite stream is determined by the age you turn in the current calendar year.  So even if you turn 12 on December 31st this year you would be considered 12 years old for completion the entire calendar year.

Elite has Junior and Senior age groups.  Juniors are 11-15 and Seniors 16 and older.

But there is a lot of overlap there right?  So then what is the difference? Qualification scores.  This means what scores it takes to qualify to classics, either hopes or elite.

The Compulsory (everyone performs the same routine test the quality of execution of basic skills) scores are based on a 10.0 system and so are out of a total of 40, just like JO.  The optional score is based on the FIG scoring system of a combination of difficulty and execution for an open ended score.  As a general ball park figure optional scores will range from 40 to pushing 60.

Hopes 10-11

Compulsory score of 32
Optional score to qualify to classics 46
The top 18 finishers at classics qualify to championships

Hopes 12-13

Compulsory score of 33
Optional score to qualify to classics 48
The top 18 finishers at classics qualify to championships

Junior Elite

Compulsory score 35
Optional score to qualify to classics 50.5
Optional score at classics to qualify to championships 51
Top six earn a spot on the national team

Senior Elite

Compulsory score 35
Optional score to qualify to classics 51
Optional score to qualify to championships 52
Top six earn a spot on the national team

So, you can see the necessary scores for Hopes are considerably lower than those of the Junior and Senior elites.  This is one of many reasons that you will see many kids competing Hopes and many less making it to the true elite levels.

The main reason that the Hopes scores are lower is that the difficulty  is much lower.  This starts with what they call the Hopes Modifications.  They start with the FIG rules and then modify them to adjust for the kids being younger and less advanced and especially on bars, which most time seems to lag the furthest behind, they reduce the difficulty required.

Now just like JO the minimum difficulty isn’t that great in the FIG code.  But, the level of difficulty and execution needed to be competitive and hit those qualifying scores will be much higher.

If a Hopes gymnast hits the qualifying scores for Junior Elite, they can compete at the elite competitions throughout the summer season.


On bars, the requirements for hopes are quite different than for the elite gymnasts.

In the Elite code you need…

Flight from high bar to low bar
A single bar release
skill from at least two different grips
360 turn

For Hopes you need

One C or higher release
Plus one additional B or higher release
skill from at least two different grips
One circling element (toe, clear hip, stalder)
180 degree turn
Minimum of B dismount

You can see that this is where there large difference in requirements come in.  In Hopes they are not required to have a single bar release and they only have to turn 180 but they also want to see those circling skills to show a proficiency at basics and working toward elevating those circling skills with turns and such. That can really add to the difficulty scores once they get to the elite level.

In addition to the requirement differences, in Hopes there is also no deduction for kipping out of shaposh-like elements.  In elite, kipping out of these elements counts as an extra swing and a .5 deduction.  Hopes gymnasts can also mount from between the bars. This is not allowed in elite level competitions.

Beam and Floor

The requirements are the same except that they indicate that your beam dismount much be a C or higher and your last tumbling pass must be a C or higher.

Also, on floor, Hopes gymnasts may stand on both feet in the corner (no more than a second) where as in the Elite code you must start your tumbling pass from one foot, preferably fluidly from the dance in your routine.

The last difference for Hopes is a safety thing for these upcoming gymnasts.  Their coaches are allowed to stand in for vault and beam dismounts to make sure they are safe.


The US really wants the girls to be competing yurchenko double fulls and eventually the Amanar.  They have made some changes to the start values in order to incentivize this.

I have to chime in here and say I don’t really like any of this.  I believe that there are lots of really cool, hard, high valued vaults that may work better for the progression of certain gymnasts.  I just think that diversity and indivuality of skill should be supported.  I am never a fan of trying to shove everyone in the same box.  But, hey, I’m not in charge, just stating the facts.

So basically for Hopes and Junior Elite, they have elevated the start values of the double and the amanar.  I think this only leads to kids trying to throw these really big and dangerous vaults potentially before they are mature enough and experienced enough to do so safely and with proficiency.  Oh, there I go again.  So sorry!

For Senior Elite they have downgraded the start values of anything less than a yurchenko double.

Also in the US there is a stick bonus.  Basically you get .1 bonus if you throw a hard vault.  I like this as I think it promotes good form and execution and prepares the kids well for college, which is where the vast majority of them end up.

These vault rules only apply to US competitions and do not apply to international competitions.

I hope that this has helped clarify some things.  Don’t forget to watch this weekend!

Hopes Championship

US Classic – Juniors

US Classics – Seniors

The senior session will be broadcast on the Olympic Channel and NBC on Saturday July 28th.

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