Becoming a U.S. Elite Gymnast

UPDATED: January 21, 2017

Quite a few visitors to the blog get here by search terms such as “level 10 to elite.” So here’s an overview of the process for becoming an Elite gymnast in the United States.

For the women, gymnasts reach the Elite level by successfully completing 2 steps. (Note: the point totals listed below are current as of the beginning of 2017, and reflect the reduction in required element points placed into effect for the 2017-20 Code of Points. Minimum qualifying scores are subject to change.)

Step 1: Compulsories

Compulsories are a demonstration of basics. For example, here are 2014 National Junior Champion Jazmyn Foberg’s compulsory routines from 2013.

To pass the compulsories step, the gymnast has to score at least 35.00 points across all 4 events at a Regional or National Qualifying competition.

However, Senior Elites (gymnasts turning 16 or older within the year) have the option of qualifying on 2 or 3 events, instead of all 4. In those cases, those gymnasts can only compete on those 2 or 3 events, not the all-around, for that Elite year if they pass. For a 2 or 3-event specialty, gymnasts must achieve a score of at least 17.50 for 2 events or 26.25 for 3 events.

The current requirements for the compulsory routines can be viewed on the USA Gymnastics website.

Step 2: Optionals

Optional routines are a showcase of the individual gymnast’s strengths and skill level. They’re the routines performed at major competitions. Again, for example, here’s Jazmyn with her optional beam routine from the same National Qualifier in 2013.

For Juniors (ages 11-15), the minimum qualifying optional score across all 4 events is currently 50.00 (to qualify as an Elite and for Classics). Note: In 2017, because of the required element points change, a Junior gymnast is automatically qualified to Classics if she scored 52.00 or above at 2016 Nationals.

To qualify to Nationals, Juniors must:

  • Score 50.50 or more at Classics
  • Reach the 50.50 mark at a Team Training Camp
  • Complete an international assignment since the previous year’s Nationals

For Seniors, the 4-event minimum qualifying score to Classics is currently 51.00 (a 53.00 or higher from 2016 Nationals can be used if the gymnast competed there).

Three-event gymnasts must score at least a 39.00 and 2-event gymnasts must score at least 26.50 on their events to qualify to Classics.

To qualify to Nationals, seniors must attain the following minimum scores:

  • 52.00 or higher for 4-events (only automatic qualifiers to Nationals from 2016 are Olympic team members and alternates)
  • 39.75 or higher for 3 events  (41.25 or higher for 2016 eligible scores)
  • 27.00 or higher for 2 events (28.00 or higher for 2016 eligible scores)

Ways Senior Elites can attain their qualifying score for optionals:

  • National Qualifiers
  • Team Training Camps
  • Member or alternate to an international competition team since the previous year’s Nationals (such as the World Championships, Olympics, Jesolo, etc.)
  • Received an international assignment since the previous year’s Nationals (e.g. a World Cup, etc.)

All routines that count towards the optional qualifying score must be a full routine performed on competition surfaces. No mats on top of foam pits or TumblTrak verification is allowed.

Also, once a gymnast has competed at Classics, they will no longer have to attain their compulsory score yearly.

The full Elite Qualification Chart can be viewed here.

Dropping Back to Level 10 from Elite

Once a gymnast is an Elite, she cannot go back down to the J.O. level on a whim.

In order to return the J.O. level after Elite status is achieved, the gymnast has to petition to drop back to the J.O. program by sending a “reason for change” letter via her coach to the National Junior Olympic Committee for review.

After the review, the Committee Chairman notifies the coach whether the petition was accepted or denied. The respective State and Regional Administrative Committee Chairmen and the Regional Technical Committee Chairman are also notified of the decision.

If the petition to transfer back to J.O. was accepted, the gymnast cannot not re-enter the Elite/Pre-Elite Program during that Elite competitive year (through Championships of the year in which she competes Level 10).


For girls 10-13, USA Gymnastics also offers HOPES, a program similar to the Elite program. The qualifying score charts for HOPES can be seen here.


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