Rhythmic gymnastics is an Olympic sport that combines the flexibility and dynamics of gymnastics, the elegance of ballet and the rhythm and self expression of dance with the handling of small equipment such as ribbon, ball, rope, hoop and clubs. Gymnasts perform on a carpet to different styles of music either individually or in a group of five. The apparatus is fully integrated in the routine and it must be used with both hands, thrown into the air and kept in motion. Choreography involves a high degree of athletic skills: dazzling tosses and difficult catches combined with high leaps, jumps, amazing flexibilities, creative apparatus movements, difficult balances and gracious pirouettes.
The sport began in Scandinavia during 19th century. It was originally developed to provide an overall physical fitness program for girls and women of all ages. Rhythmic gymnastics mostly evolved during the 50s. It was officially recognized as a competitive sport in 1962 by the International Gymnastics Federation. The first Rhythmic World Championship took place in 1963 in Hungary. Individual all-around competition was added to the Olympic Games in 1984. In 1996 rhythmic group event became a medal winning Olympic sport as well. Women can begin the sport at almost any age and participate in the fun and fitness level or start at very young age and progress into competition. Basic rhythmic skills develop attributes that are perfect stepping stones for other activities and sports: strength, coordination, flexibility, balance, creativity, discipline, etc.
In the United States rhythmic gymnastics is part of USA Gymnastics Federation which sets the rules and polices that governs all gymnastics and related disciplines in the country. The sport is still not very well know, but rapidly growing.