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1962 Judging Controversy MAG World Championships

1962: The Men’s Competition at the World Championships

Since my first blog post started in 1962, let’s continue down the 1962 rabbit hole by doing a Cliffs Notes version of the 1962 World Championships for the men.

This post is really stinkin’ long, so here are some links to help you jump around.

Historical Context | Gymnastics Context | Code and Judging Notes | Video Footage | Team Competition | All-Around | Event Finals | Judging Controversy

The Basics

Location: Prague, Czechoslovakia
Participants: 132 Men and 120 Women

Opening Ceremonies: Tuesday, July 3
Men’s Compulsories: Wednesday, July 4
Women’s Compulsories: Thursday, July 5
Men’s Optionals: Friday, July 6
Women’s Optionals: Saturday, July 7
Individual Championships: Sunday, July 8

Historical Context

Gymnastics doesn’t happen in a vacuum. While we’d like to think that history and politics don’t impact gymnastics, they do. They can impact judging. They can impact a country’s expectations of its athletes. They impact which countries participate in a World Championships or at an Olympics. And they impact how journalists report on the events.

So, here’s some information to get you situated.

  • The Cold War was in full swing. 
    • On July 11, 1960, the National Assembly approved a new Czechoslovak constitution, declaring ecstatically, “Socialism has triumphed in our country!”
    • In 1961, the Berlin Wall was built between East and West Germany, there was a failed attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, and Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin completed the first orbit of Earth by a human. 
    • In 1962, the year of the World Championships, Soviet missile bases discovered in Cuba triggered a crisis that almost brought the U.S. to war with the U.S.S.R. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.
  • The Great Chinese Famine (1958ish to 1962ish): China was nearing the end of a famine that resulted in the death of tens of millions of people.
  • Meanwhile, Japan was on a growth trajectory. In 1960, Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda challenged the country to double its income in the next decade.
  • Similarly, Italy was experiencing its “economic miracle.” The country’s GDP grew by 5.8% annually between 1951 and 1963, coinciding with the country’s rapid industrialization.

Hmm, not your type of history? What about…

  • The World’s Fair: In 1962, Seattle held a World’s Fair that celebrated space, science, and the future.
  • The song of the year in the U.S. was Moon River” thanks to the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).
  • Marilyn Monroe sang her iconic “Happy Birthday” to U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Sadly, she died months later.

Gymnastics Context

  • Boris Shakhlin was the reigning Olympic AA champion. Ono Takashi finished second, and Yuri Titov was third in Rome.
    • Though Shakhlin was the reigning Olympic AA champion, Yuri Titov was the top Soviet coming into the meet. He won the recent USSR Winter Championships (Modern Gymnast, February 1962).
    • Random gym nerd trivia: At the 1962 World Championships, Yuri Titov found out during the meet that his son was born.
  • Japan won the team competition in 1960, with the USSR taking silver and Italy taking bronze.
  • Yugoslavia’s Miroslav Cerar was the reigning European champion (1961).
  • Italy’s Giovanni Carminucci beat Japan’s Yukio Endo by 0.35 in a 1962 dual meet between the two countries (Modern Gymnast, May 1962).
  • U.S. gymnastics was in a state of transition. The United States Gymnastics Federation had just been formed in an attempt to oust the AAU as the national governing body.
  • Republic of China vs. People’s Republic of China: Mainland China didn’t participate in the 1960 Olympics due to a political dispute between the Republic of China (commonly referred to as Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (commonly referred to as mainland China). You can read about it here and here.
    • This was the last World Championships that the People’s Republic of China would participate in until 1979. They withdrew from the FIG in 1964 when the FIG allowed the Republic of China (Taiwan) to become a member.

Notes about Judging and the Code

Holistic View: As you watch these routines, don’t obsess over every bent knee or flexed foot. That’s not how judges thought of their jobs. They took a more holistic view. 

In the May 1962 issue of the Modern Gymnast, Charlie Simms, a former Olympian and national AAU judge, writes:

The judge should not adopt too pedantic a role in deducting points, since then he becomes a machine merely taking off points without regard to the aesthetic and combinational qualities of the exercise as a whole. Rather a balance between the necessary deductions and a qualitative score for an exercise is the point to be reached for good, accurate, and unbiased judging.

Scoring: Routines were scored out of a 10.0. 5 points maximum for execution, form, style, continuity; 3 points maximum for difficulty; 2 points for composition.

Routine Composition: Optional exercises counted 10 elements and needed to include at least 4 “B” and 1 “C” parts. Though, the top gymnasts would perform more difficulty than necessary, competing multiple “C” parts.

Difficulty was supposed to be spread throughout a routine. For example, the mount should not be too easy or too difficult for what follows.

Harmonious Balance: Variations of this term were thrown around a lot. Essentially, routines were supposed to show contrasting shapes, a variety of skills, and rhythm changes.


Footage from the Competition

Sadly, we don’t have footage of each individual competition, but we do have a collection of highlights that we can appreciate.

Floor Exercise: Watch how the gymnasts try to change body shapes and rhythms. Ono (5:06) does a fun shoulder roll. Leontiev (6:29) did a Korbut before Korbut did a Korbut. Menichelli (9:05) does the worm to handstand.

Cerar on Pommel Horse: Can you see how much better he was than his competitors? While everyone else was doing circles in L-sit position, his hips (16:57) are far more open.

Leontiev on Rings: You can see the future of rings in his routine (20:42), especially when he lowers through an inverted cross. Plus, he was one of the few gymnasts to perform a double tuck dismount.

Cerar on P-Bars: Again, you can see where this event might go in the future. In the middle of his routine (31:54), he does a single-rail jam to press handstand–a move that was common for decades after. Also, note how the crowd loves him. This will be important for our discussion below.

Yamashita on P-Bars: Rhythm changes and speed alterations weren’t just for the floor. They were also evident in parallel bars, especially this routine from Yamashita (29:42). The slow handstand forward roll into the fast straddle cut. The handstand hold into the quick back toss into the Stutz. It’s a routine of contrasts.

Cerar on High Bar: You might watch these routines and roll your eyes at how easy the skills are. But Cerar (37:00) does an Adler/Tak 1/1 to mixed grip, which in the 2017-2020 Code is a D.

Observations on the Americans: You can tell that they don’t have the polish of the other gymnasts. Armando Vega’s iron crosses (17:41) are arched, and his elbows are bent on his handstands on rings. Don Tonry’s knees bend throughout his high bar routine (35:52).


The Team Competition

A Comparison between the 1962 Prague World Championships and the 1960 Rome Olympics

Prague PlacePrague ScoreRome OLY PlaceRome Score
1. Japan574.651.575.20
2. USSR573.152.572.70
3. Czechoslovakia561.504.557.15
4. People’s Republic of China559.00(No Team)
5. Italy557.203.559.05
6. United States555.255.555.20
7. Finland554.906.555.45
8. East Germany554.507. 553.35*
9. Switzerland552.958.551.45
10. Yugoslavia552.709.550.80
11. Bulgaria551.7510.546.60
12. Hungary550.6512.545.45
13. Poland550.3510.546.60
14. France543.1513.536.90
15. Sweden541.7514.532.25
16. West Germany538.207.553.35*
17. United Arab Rep.**517.2515.518.65
18. Canada504.85No Team
19. Cuba461.75No Team
20. Turkey374.75No Team
*East and West Germany competed together at the 1960 Olympics
**United Arab Republic is not the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Republic was a union between Egypt and Syra, but Syria seceded in 1961.
Source: Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962
Format: 6 gymnasts compete, 5 scores count toward the team final.

1.5 points was a narrow margin of victory back then:

A determined and talented Japanese squad came through to maintain their world Gymnastic leadership gained in Rome as they out-performed the USSR team by a narrow one and one-half point margin to win the men’s team Championships.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Not much has changed since the 1960 World Championships

The rest of the team placings ran much the same as Rome. Fact is, if you reverse the home team (Italy and Czechoslovakia ) placements of the two meets and insert the Red China team in between, the other teams will run in the same order up to tenth place with just Poland out of order through the 15th position.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Note: The FIG recognized Beijing’s All-China Athletic Federation, which oversaw the Chinese Gymnastics Association. This allowed athletes from mainland China to compete at FIG-sanctioned events.

Note #2: Notice how the author refers to China as “Red China.” As I said, politics creep into gymnastics whether we like it or not.

The U.S. men were rough in compulsories but exceptional in optionals

But no matter how hard they tried or how well they performed their routines, they just couldn’t get good scores from the judges, and ended up in 15th place for the compulsories. However, two days and a lot of gymnastics later, competing in the evening session for the optional exercises, they really hit. Here it seemed they could do no wrong, a real go for broke team that came through with flying colors, and third highest team scores in the optionals. This fine scoring effort, when added to their Compulsory score, placed them sixth for the over-all team competition.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Hardwood is hard on your body.

As a team our boys got off to a bad start, everything seemed to go against them : they didn’t act completely recuperated from the 30 exercises in three days which they had to perform at the final trials at Kings Point, N.Y., where they were competing against each other for a place on the team (lots of bruises from working the Floor-X without a mat).

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Note: In the United States, gymnasts often competed and practiced FX on hardwood floors. At the 1962 NCAA Championships, gymnasts had the option of competing FX on the hardwood floors or on a rug.

Canada competed with only five gymnasts.

The fact that Wilhelm Weiler did not compete, and thus the Canadian team had only five members, meant that all of their scores would count each time and this was a severe disadvantage as the individual scores were totalled to obtain the team scores.

Reet Nurmberg, A History of Competitive Gymnastics in Canada, 1970

Yes, that is Wilhelm Weiler of Weiler kip fame.

According to Modern Gymnast, the judges were hard on the Japanese gymnasts, who were a cut above the rest.

The judges seemed a bit more critical of the gentlemen from Japan, they really had to earn every tenth they received and that they did with some of the most beautiful and precise compulsory and optional routines we’ve ever witnessed.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

The All-Around

CountryComp.Opt.Total
1. Titov, YuriURS57.6558.00115.65
2. Endo YukioJPN57.5557.95115.50
3. Shakhlin, BorisURS57.2557.95115.20
4. Ono TakashiJPN57.2557.90115.15
5. Cerar, MiroslavYUG57.3057.65114.95
6. Mitsukuri TakashiJPN57.0057.30114.30
7. Yamashita HaruhiroJPN56.7557.35114.10
8. Stolbov, PavelURS56.9557.05114.00
9. Kerdemelidi, ValeriiURS56.7057.15113.85
9. Tsurumi ShujiJPN56.2557.60113.85
11. Menichelli, FrancoITA56.5557.05113.60
12. Aihara NobuyukiJPN56.7056.75113.45
13. Lisitsky, ViktorURS56.5556.85113.40
14. Leontiev, VasilevURS56.3056.75113.05
15. Yu Lieh FengPRC56.3056.50112.80
16. Klecka, KarelTCH55.9556.65112.60
17. Benker, MaxSUI55.6556.75112.40
18. Carminucci, GiovanniITA56.2056.10112.30
19. Stastny, JaroslavTCH55.9556.25112.20
20. Prodanov, NikolaiBUL55.8056.30112.10
USA
21. Tonry, DonaldUSA55.0056.70111.70
29. Lynn, RobertUSA55.0556.00111.05
35. Vega, J. ArmandoUSA53.9556.85110.80
41. Banner, LarryUSA54.7055.80110.50
59. Orlofsky, FredUSA54.6054.95109.55
85. Grossfeld, AbieUSA52.8555.15108.00
Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962
There wasn’t a separate all-around competition as there is today. At the same time that gymnasts competed for the team title, they competed for the all-around title. Their all-around totals were the sum of their optional and compulsory routines.

Here’s a synopsis of what happened during the AA competition…

Yuri Titov: The Most Consistent

Yuri Titov placed first on the Rings and was among the top four in all the other events except the Floor Exercise where he came in seventh. He totaled enough points to beat out Endo by 0.15 for the top All-Around award.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Endo Yukio: Pommel Horse Was His Undoing

Yukio Endo with a first on the Parallels, second on the H-Bar and Floor-X, third on the Rings and fourth on the Long Horse, in spite of a low compulsory score of 9.30 was really in the running. However, a 12th place on the Side Horse (0.40 less than Titov) was his undoing and he had to settle for second place. 

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Boris Shakhlin: Undone by Floor Exercise and a Second Attempt on High Bar in Compulsories

Third place winner “Iron Man” Boris Shaklin, always a top contender, lost out with an eleventh place Floor Exercise and a break on the second attempt in his Horizontal bar compulsory routine that put him in thirteenth place for that event, dampening any hopes he may have had to win the All-Around.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Note #1: Boris Shakhlin’s nickname predates the “Iron Man” comic book character, who debuted in 1963.

Note #2: Compulsory exercises on pommels, p-bars, high bar, and rings could be repeated. The gymnast had to raise his hand immediately after his dismount and repeat his routine before his team rotated to the next event. The first routine would not be judged. FX could not be repeated.

Ono Takashi: Pommel Horse Was His Undoing 

Takashi Ono, with a first on the Horizontal Bar and fourth places in the Parallels, Floor-X and Long Horse events along with a seventh place on the Rings and 18th on the Side Horse, averaged out for a fourth spot in the All-Around.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Miroslav Cerar: A Crowd Favorite Who Struggled on Compulsory Vault 

Miroslav Cerar, a favorite with the crowd, as expected came through with a beautiful routine on the Side Horse for the top score in that event and the Meet (19.70). But this was not enough, as he also recorded the lowest score of the meet among the top ten All-Around men–an 8.95 for his compulsory jump on the Long Horse or 37th place for the event (much to the chagrin of his many fans, who did not hesitate to make a vocal protest). These high and low extremes, along with a third on the P-Bars, fifth on the Rings, sixth on the H-Bar and eleventh for his Floor Exercise netted him fifth All-Around.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Note: The compulsory vault was a hecht vault. Gymnasts were allowed two vaults and kept the best score of the two vaults.

Modern Gymnast, February 1962

The U.S. men showed a lot of potential, but they struggled on pommels and, in general, on compulsories

In summing up the comments of many of the observers at the World Championships in Prague, it seemed to be their opinion that the U. S. is definitely a world power in Gymnastics from what they saw of tricks, routines and potential ability. However, they were disappointed in our compulsory showing, and of the breaks in our optional exercises, which they had expected us to have down to perfection. Also of special mention was the fact that our highest Side Horse scorer placed 40th and that only two other U.S. Gymnasts placed among the 50 in that event. It was only on the Rings and the Long Horse that our whole Team placed within the top 50.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

The Canadian men trained too hard prior to the competition’s start

As soon as the team arrived in Prague, they immediately began all-day work-outs for a period of four days. Their routines were much improved by this practice, but unfortunately, most of them ruined and/or ripped their hands because of the constant work. This greatly affected their performances in the competition, especially on the high bar events… The top men’s score was achieved by Richard Montpetit, who placed 100th place in the all around competition.

Reet Nurmberg, A History of Competitive Gymnastics in Canada, 1970

Event Finals

Floor Exercise

CountryComp.Opt.Avg.FinalsTotal
1. AiharaJPN9.609.809.709.8019.50
1. EndoJPN9.559.759.659.8519.50
3. MenichelliITA9.459.759.609.8519.45
4. YamashitaJPN9.509.609.559.7519.30
5. OnoJPN9.459.709.5759.7019.275
6. StastnyTCH9.409.609.509.5019.00
Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Side Horse (AKA Pommel Horse)

CountryComp.Opt.Avg.FinalsTotal
1. CerarYUG9.809.909.859.9019.75
2. ShakhlinURS9.759.709.7259.6519.375
3. MitsukuriJPN9.609.609.609.7019.30
3. YuCHN9.509.709.609.7019.30
5. TitovURS9.659.709.6759.6019.275
6. KerdemelidiURS9.609.609.608.8018.40
Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Still Rings

CountryComp.Opt.Avg.FinalsTotal
1. TitovURS9.709.709.709.8519.55
2. EndoJPN9.709.559.6259.8019.425
2. ShakhlinURS9.659.709.6759.7519.425
4. AiharaJPN9.559.659.609.6519.25
5. LeontievURS9.709.559.6259.6019.225
6. CerarYUG9.609.609.609.6019.20
Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Long Horse (AKA Vault)

CountryComp.Opt.Avg.FinalsTotal
1. KrbecTCH9.509.809.659.9019.55
2. YamashitaJPN9.309.809.559.8019.35
3. ShakhlinURS9.509.559.5259.7019.225
3. EndoJPN9.309.759.5259.7019.225
5. OnoJPN9.409.659.5259.6519.175
6. FülleGDR9.259.709.4759.6019.075
Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Parallel Bars

CountryComp.Opt.Avg.FinalsTotal
1. CerarYUG9.759.709.7259.9019.625
2. ShakhlinURS9.709.809.759.8519.60
3. EndoJPN9.709.809.759.7519.50
4. YamashitaJPN9.659.709.6759.7019.375
5. OnoJPN9.709.709.709.5519.25
6. KerdemelidiURS9.609.759.6759.4519.125
Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Horizontal Bar

CountryComp.Opt.Avg.FinalsTotal
1. OnoJPN9.759.809.7759.9019.675
2. EndoJPN9.809.659.7259.9019.625
2. StolbovURS9.659.809.7259.9019.625
4. MitsukuriJPN9.659.659.659.8519.50
4. TitovURS9.609.809.709.8019.50
6. CerarYUG9.759.509.6259.8019.425
Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

How Did Event Finals Work in 1962?

To qualify for event finals, they took the average of your compulsory scores and all-around optional scores. The top six then qualified to finals.

Following the All-Around competition, the top six competitors in each of the All-Around events compete for the individual championship awards. Here the compulsory and optional All-Around scores are averaged and the new optional score is added to determine the total and event winner.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Note: There wasn’t a two-per- or three-per-country rule. There were four Japanese gymnasts in the floor finals.

Also of note: Titov withdrew from the vault finals due to a foot injury sustained during the all-around optionals, which allowed Fülle to enter the finals.


The Judging Controversy

During the event finals, Cerar’s parallel bars routine caused a 30-minute delay. Here’s how Modern Gymnast described it:

Only on the Parallels did things get out of hand, when a very critical audience whistled, sho~ted, booed, stamped their feet and clapped theIr hands in protest of the score given Cerar. The crowd, along with many others, thought Cerar performed hIS highly difficult routine with more artistic flow and aesthetic beauty than was contained in “Iron Man” Shaklin’s precise Parallel exercise. This delayed the meet over a half an hour while the Yugoslavic delegation officially protested, the crowds hollered and the Head Judge, Judges and FIG Jury conferred. As a result, the score was changed from a 9.8 to a 9.9 and Cerar became the winner of the event as crowds clapped and shouted their approval of the Jury’s decision.

Modern Gymnast, Sept/Oct 1962

Did This Show Cracks in the FIG Scoring System?

Not according to the writer in the Modern Gymnast:

Although we feel the change was warranted, it was nevertheless an unfortunate situation, which was yery uncomfortable for both of the Gymnasts; who after all are just out to do the best job they can and not to be the object of an emotional display. It is indeed a shame that it appeared that the crowd influenced the score change, when in reality the FIG Jury, through methodical work and voting, made the adjustment in the score. Had it been any other way, it would have been a vital blow to the FIG system of scoring which has taken years of hard work and study to develop and perfect.

However, not everyone felt that way. [Insert dramatic movie music here.]

Stay tuned!

In my next blog post, we’ll look at how Cerar’s p-bar routine opened a discussion about the limitations of the 10.0 system.

Yup, back in the 1960s, there were already ideas for an open-ended scoring system.

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