Artistic Gymnastics History
Gymnastics is one of the oldest Olympic sports, and was first practised at the ancient Olympic Games when the competitors performed a variety of events that could loosely be termed as 'gymnastics'. These included wrestling and vaulting over bulls, according to illustrations seen on ancient clay pots. In fact, the name 'gymnastics' is derived from the ancient Greek word 'gumnos' which literally translated means naked. Because of this, women were excluded from the ancient Games, not just as competitors but also as spectators!
From the Ancient Greek to the Internet
The history of gymnastics is closely related to the ancient Olympic Games, but a thousand years before then (2700 B.C. - 1400 B.C.,700BC - 1,400BC) King Minos and his contemporariespeers had already given their royal approval and seal to physical exercises.
The sport in its modern form first evolved during the 19th century, when two styles of gymnastics were in conflict : the Swedish system (mainly freestyle group exercises) and the German system (using apparatus).
Large open air gymnasiums began to appear in Europe during the 19th century, resembling adventure playgrounds where gentlemen could impress their lady friends with a spot of rope-climbing. It was regarded as a great form of discipline by the army, and many military terms still exist today, such as 'marching on' and 'saluting the judges'.
The international governing body for Gymnastics, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) was founded in 1881 in Liège (BEL). There are currently 129 federations affiliated to the FIG and 1 associated federation (31.12.2005).
Olympic since ever
Artistic Gymnasticsgymnastics is one of the few sports tothat have been contested at every Olympic Games of the modern era since 1896.
The first Olympic gymnastics competition in Athens took place affiliated and involved 18 gymnasts from five nations. Only voluntary routines on six apparatus were performed - high bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, rings, vault and rope climbing. Only Gold and Silvergold and silver medals were awarded and German gymnasts, many of whom also competed in other sports, such as athletics and wrestling, won the majority of them.
Changes were gradually made at each Olympic competition: - to the number of apparatus used, to the number of gymnasts per team and to the quality of the routines. However, the era of discipline-specific Gymnastics was fixed in 1952 at Helsinki.
Artistic Gymnastics Today
One of the most popular sports in the Olympic programme, gymnastics is also one of the most demanding. Widely practised around the world, it requires a unique combination of strength, flexibility, stamina, daring and artistry.
Gymnastics has been a part of every Olympic Games, with women first competing in 1928 (large groups of women competed in 1908 and 1912). In the early Olympiads of the modern era through 1948, the sport developed and broadened. Competitions were often held outdoors and apparatus had not yet been regulated. Indeed, many federations had to bring their own springboards, pommel horses and so on !
Many disciplines no longer exist today, such as rope climbing, club swinging, group parallel bar exercises for men and, for women, team drill exercises with and without hand apparatus, exercises on the even parallel, bars, side horse, spring board vaulting / jumping and flying rings.
The team drill ensemble with hand apparatus, such as clubs, ribbons, balls and hoops, that were part of the Women's Artistic Gymnastics programmewomen's artistic gymnastic program through the 1956 Olympic Games, has since evolved separately into the current sport of Rhythmic Gymnastics. Today, mass team drills with and without hand apparatus, are to be seen in the FIG World Gymnaestrada event and 'Gymnastics for All' programmesprograms.
In 1936, the individual apparatus events for men consisted of free exercises (forerunner of 'floor'), rings side (pommel) horse, parallel bars, horizontal bars and long horse, a similar apparatus programme as compared to today. The women in 1936 competed individually, earning team points, showing both a compulsory and an optional exercise on parallel bars, balance beam, side horse vault, as well as in 2 optional team drills - one free hand and one with hand apparatus. In 1948, the women even competed in a compulsory exercise on the rings !
The 1952 Olympics were the first in which the women were allowed to compete as individuals in the 4 apparatus program - vault, uneven bars, beam and floor.
Today, Artistic Gymnastics still enjoys widespread popularity, especially during the Olympic season. It is the 'Queen' of FIG competitive disciplines, alongside Rhythmic Gymnastics, Trampoline Gymnastics, Aerobic Gymnastics and Acrobatic Gymnastics. It is governed by two Technical Committees (Men's and Women's). Each year, the world's top gymnasts meet for the FIG World Championships. A World Cup Final takes place every even year.