- Gymnastics as a sport has been around for 2,000 years.
- The Ancient Greeks practiced gymnastics as a way to prepare for war. Activities like running and jumping, along with throwing a discus and wrestling were used to prepare the young Greek men. Boxing was also used and all of these activities helped develop the muscles needed for hand-to-hand combat. Additional fitness practices used by the ancient Greeks included methods for mounting and dismounting a horses and a variety of circus performance skills.
- The ancient Greeks also trained their young students in gymnastics as a part of their education.
- In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries two pioneer physical educators, Johann Friedrich GutsMuth and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn created exercises for boys and young men on several apparatus they had designed.
- Friedrich Jahn became known as the “father of gymnastics”. He designed and introduced the horizontal bar, parallel bars, balance beam, side horse with pommels, ladder, and vaulting horse.
- In the early 19th Century, educators began using gymnastics as a part of their training programs, and in the early 20th Century, the armed services began using gymnastics and producing drill manuals featuring all kinds of gymnastics.
- By the end of the nineteenth century, men’s gymnastics was popular enough to be included in the first modern Olympic Games held in 1896. However, up until the 1950s, gymnastics in the Olympics included such things as synchronized team floor calisthenics, rope climbing, high jumping, running, and horizontal ladder just to name a few.
- Women first started to participate in gymnastics events in the 1920s and the first women’s Olympic competition was held in the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. However, the only event to compete was synchronized calisthenics. Combined exercises for women were first held in 1928. Then, in the 1952 Olympics the first full regime of events for women was in competition.
- By the 1954 Olympic Games apparatus and events for both men and women had been standardized in modern format, and scoring standards, including a point system from 1 to 10, were implemented. Modern Men’s gymnastics events are scored on an individual and team basis, and presently include the floor exercise, horizontal bar, parallel bars, rings, pommel horse, vaulting, and the all-around, which combines the scores of the other six events. Women’s gymnastic events include balance beam, uneven parallel bars, combined exercises, floor exercises, vaulting, and rhythmic sportive gymnastics.
- In 1972, Nadia Comaneci showed the world that power, strength and precision were not just qualities that could be seen in men’s gymnastics. Comaneci scored four of her perfect tens on the uneven bars, two on the balance beam and one in the floor exercise. Mary Lou Retton was the first U.S. woman to score two perfect scores. She accomplished this in her All-Around competition at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
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