Grace and Power: Bending Over Backwards to Reach the Olympics

Stefan Wermuth—Reuters
Stefan Wermuth—Reuters
January 9, 2012. A gymnast practises on the beam during a training session before the Olympic gymnastics venue test event in east London.

The routines of gymnasts are precious ones—a matter of inches separate a perfect performance from a complete disaster. From landing back handsprings on a four-inch-wide balance beam to sticking triple twists within the white border of a floor mat, gymnasts must balance aerobatics with precision.

An international competition at the North Greenwich Arena in London that runs through Jan. 18 is giving Olympic hopefuls one final chance to qualify across all three disciplines—artistic, trampoline and rhythmic—for this summer’s Games. It also affords Olympic photographers a chance to perfect their angles and hone their artist approach at a venue where qualifying athletes will perform in London this summer. Herewith, TIME presents a gallery of images from this week’s event, which creatively captures the power and grace that merit a perfect 10.

(For  TIME’s daily coverage of the 2012 Olympics, visit: Time.com/Olympics)

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