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History of Gymnastics

Gymnastics Timeline

Ancient Civilization

  • Gymnastics are believed to have come about from the Ancient Greeks.
  • Back then they were a combination of acrobatic and strength activities.
  • The Ancient Greeks would take part in activities such as boxing, jumping, running and wrestling in order to strengthen for battle.
  • The word gymnastics itself comes from the Greek word ‘gymnazo’ which means to train naked.

1700s

  • It is in fact Johann Gutsmuths, a German professor who is considered as the creator and developer of gymnastics.
  • In the 1790s he published textbooks, which taught gymnastic exercises for young people to take part in at school.

1800s

  • After Gutsmuths, Friedrich Jahn a soldier, whose army was defeated in battle, came up with idea of improving people’s physical strength by taking part in gymnastics.
  • It was Jahn who opened the first out door gymnasium in 1811. This gym included bars and rings.
  • In the 1880s, gymnastics became an official sport and later on, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) was formed.
  • The first summer Olympics was held in Athens in 1886 and gymnastic events for men were established.
  • The events were a little different than what we see today but did include the bars, the high jump, the pommel horse, the rings, rope climbing, running and vaulting.

1900s

  • Women were allowed to compete in artistic gymnastics (routines on different apparatus) from the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam.
  • By the 1950s, during the Olympic games there were a variety of events for both men and women:
  • Women would take part in events such as the balance bar, the uneven bars, the vault and would do floor exercises.
  • Men had more options and would do floor exercises, the horizontal bar, the parallel bars, the pommel horse, the rings and the vault.
  • Although gymnastics originated in Germany, it was the Soviet Union who soon lead modern gymnastics history along with other Easter European countries. The gymnasts performed very challenging routines and were at the top of the Olympic leader boards between 1952 and 1992.
  • In the 1970s gymnastics became even more popular due to TV coverage of two of the Olympics during that decade.
  • Gymnastics had also become very popular in the USA. The United States Gymnastics Federation, now known as USA Gymnastics was created.
  • At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, a Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci got the first perfect score.
  • Rhythmic gymnastics (routines for women on the floor) were added to the Olympics by the mid 1980s.
  • An American gymnast, Mary Lou Retton was the first American woman to win the Olympic all-around title.
  • The USA women’s gymnastics team The Magnificent Seven (named because there were seven competitors), won the USAs first gold medal in the women’s team competition in the 1996 Olympics.
  • From 1997, the International Gymnastics Federation stated that in order for gymnasts to compete in senior competitions and events, they would have to be 16 years old (it was previously 15 years old).
  • Just before the millennium in 1999, tumbling (men or women doing a series of somersaults one after the other) and trampolining were added to USA Gymnastics.

The 2000s

  • At the start of the millennium, trampolining became part of the Olympics.
  • A year later in 2001, the vault was replaced by a vault horse (this is like a pommel horse but without handles). It was believed this would be safer.
  • In a non-boycotted Olympics in 2004, Carly Patterson won the all-around Olympic title. She was the first American woman to do so.
  • In 2006, a new scoring system was created and scores could exceed 10.0.
  • The Fierce Five (five competitors) got the USAs second gold medal in 2012 in the women’s team competition.
  • In 2013 gymnastic levels changed from 6 compulsory levels/4 optional levels, to 5 compulsory levels/ 5 optional levels. After the 10 levels, a gymnastic can compete at elite level.

Types of Gymnastics

For Men there are 6 events:
floor exercise, horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, still rings, vault.
For Women there are 4 events:
balance beam, floor exercise, uneven bars, vault.
Only women compete in rhythmic gymnastics.
It is a combination of ballet, dance and gymnastics.
There are five separate routines performed on the floor whilst using five apparatus:
a ball, ribbon, a hoop, clubs (a bit like a long skittle) and a rope.
There is less emphasis on acrobatics here and more on aesthetics.
This is often known as Acro.
It is for both men and women and is group work.
Acrobats in groups of 2/3/4 perform routines using the feet/hands/heads of their partners.
This can be individual or group work.
The focus is on fitness, flexibility and strength rather than acrobatics and balance.

Equipment

For women:

  • The balance beam is 1.25m above the mat and is 10cm wide. The gymnast does flips, handstands and leaps on it.
  • The floor is carpeted and is 12 square meters. It normally has foam padding and springs. The gymnasts perform their routines to music using the whole mat.
  • The uneven bars are two wooden bars on a metal frame. The bars are at different heights and are positioned to the gymnast’s needs. They are 1.8m apart.
  • The vault stands at the end of a 25m runway. The gymnasts hurtle along the runway, jump onto a springboard and then perform jumps and handsprings over the vault.

For men:

  • The floor is carpeted and is 12 square meters. It normally has foam padding and springs. The gymnasts perform their routines to music using the whole mat.
  • The high bar is 2.75m above the ground on a metal frame. The gymnast swings on the bar, lets go and re-grips.
  • The parallel bars are two wooden bars on a metal frame. The gymnast uses the bars to show balancing and swinging skills.
  • The pommel horse is similar to the vault but has two handles. Gymnasts

place their hands on top of the apparatus and using strength perform various different body movements.

  • The still rings hang 50 cm apart and are 2.75 m above the mat. The gymnast holds the rings and performs skills using core strength and body stillness.
  • The vault stands at the end of a 25m runway. The gymnasts hurtle along the runway, jump onto a springboard and then perform jumps and handsprings over the vault.

 Landing

The dismount is very important in gymnastics and plays a huge part in the execution scores.
Getting the right impact when hitting the ground is also very important to reduce the risk of injury.
The landing must be safe, well-executed, nice to look at and be a double foot landing.

Scoring

In 2006, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) created a new scoring system for artistic gymnastics.
Scores used to have a maximum of 10 but this was abolished.
The new system adds together a difficulty score and an execution score to get a total score.
The difficulty score includes: difficulty, connection value and element requirements.
The execution score includes: execution, artistry, composition and technique.

Have you ever been to see or even taken part in a gymnastics competition? What are your thoughts?

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