1950 MAG WAG World Championships

1950: A Preview of the World Championships in Basel

Competition previews are a tried and true genre of gymnastics sports writing. They give you a snapshot of who are the favorites, how certain countries’ gymnasts are perceived, and what the supposed expectations of the judges are. Plus, they are fun to read after the competition and see how much the author got right and wrong.

Let’s take a look at the preview for the 1950 World Championships in Basel, Switzerland. It was written by Jean A. Latte and was printed in the French Moroccan newspaper La Vigie Marocaine on July 7, 1950.

Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview | French Original

Men’s Preview

After the 1948 Olympics, the Swiss and the Finnish teams faced off again. This time, the Swiss were victorious.

Reminder: The Finnish team won the men’s team title at the 1948 Olympics.

Surprised by their failure in London where they hoped to win, the Swiss went to Finland at the end of 1948 to compete against the national team, world champion. In Helsinki, Switzerland dominated and Stalder, who only finished third in his country’s championship a few months later, outclassed Olympic champion Huthanen.

The Swiss team was doing everything they could to win in 1950.

The Swiss are keen to appeal their honorable defeat in 1948. They have increased the number of training sessions, technical studies, and research of exercises that best suit the subject’s morphology.

That said, in the opinion of French gymnast Michel Mathiot, the Finnish team would still pose a threat at the 1950 World Championships.

On pommel horse, the Finns remain the undisputed masters. In addition to their natural elegance, they take on the most difficult elements. On the vault, they perform splendid hecht vaults from the neck. On floor exercise, the young Viskari will prevail, as well as on the other apparatus. On the horizontal bar, apart from the dismounts that the Finns perform perfectly, the exercises hardly differ from ours [the French team’s].

Whether tall or not, Finnish gymnasts are thinner, sleeker, more flexible. Their homogeneous team will give the Swiss squad a run for their money during the World Championships. We will have to look for the winner between these two teams.

The Swiss team also competed against the Hungarian team in the time between the Olympics and World Championships. They won but not as decisively as one might have thought.

The Swiss also wanted to pit themselves against the Hungarians, convinced that they would draw valuable lessons from it. They only won the competition: 347 points to 344. The individual classification shows the mastery of the Swiss Stalder, Lehmann, and Tschabold and the value of the Hungarians Baranjaï, Varkoi, and Pataki.

Reminder: The Hungarian team had finished third at the 1948 Olympics.

Both the Hungarian and Czechoslovak teams were looking stronger than before.

In pure gymnastics, Hungary and Czechoslovakia therefore appear to be superior to their training in 1948.

However, neither country sent teams to the 1950 World Championships.

Italy was on the upswing.

Italy is on an upward march and silently is stretching her efforts towards the ultimate test in July [the World Championships]. Figone (future Olympian) and Zanetti are remarkable leaders for Florvanti, Armeloni, etc.

The Italian Federation treated its athletes well.

The Italian Federation knows how to agree to all the necessary expenses to compensate Italian gymnasts who devote their leisure time to official training.

It was unclear how the Yugoslav team was looking.

Political events deprive us of new details. We only know that the Yugoslav side has to do the most methodical work and that they will be among the most homogeneous at the world tournament in July.

The writer thought that the Soviet Union might compete at Worlds.

As for the Russians, mysterious in principle, they still live on the fringes of international contacts. We were hoping for their participation in the next competitions, but their demands (that the Russian language be one of the official languages, etc.) can lead to a regrettable defection […]

We readily admit that the Russians have extraordinary (or even “complete”) team members for some apparatuses, but we will wait to see them at work, to judge them as a team.

For more on the Soviet Union’s attempts to join the FIG, head over to this post.

The Americans were the top students.

[The U.S. gymnasts] took a lot of notes, films, and photos in London to learn from them, and one can believe that they will come to Switzerland in their best physical condition. That’s saying it all.

As for the French team, it was believed that they just didn’t have the right body type.

Our gymnasts, it must be said, are too muscular. They don’t have this elegance, this morphological finesse that you can see in their future competitors.

The youngsters of the national team in training are close to the true classic canon, but they are short in height. And that does not make it easier for them to work on the apparatus, contrary to legend. Their hip flexibility is almost nonexistent … compared to that of the Finns and the Swiss, who, on the pommels, seem to be as comfortable as they are on the floor.

Note: I don’t endorse these beliefs about body types.

Finally, in addition to the six apparatus, the teams competed in the 100m sprint, high jump, and pole vault.

It is possible that, in the track and field events 100 m. sprint, high jump, and pole vault, the gymnasts of the Danube [Hungarians] compensate for their slight disadvantage on the apparatus and thus will compete with the best to win first place.

Note: The 1949 Code of Points allowed for the inclusion of track and field events:

All the exercises, indiscriminately those scored by judgment and those scored by measurement, are evaluated from 0 to 10 points and by division into tenths of a point.

Tous les exercices, indistinctement ceux taxés par appréciation comme ceux taxés par mensuration, sont évalués de 0 à 10 points et par fractionnement en dixièmes de point.

There were still gymnastics events that were being measured by speed and height.

Women’s Preview

France was behind the other nations.

France is five years behind these nations. Whether it’s the flying rings, uneven bars, or rhythmic, here again our young girls have a lot to learn.

The French women put too much emphasis on difficulty.

We were influenced by instructors who were not very specialized in women’s gymnastics. The difficulty was sought to the detriment of the sequence, the careful execution of the exercises.

The emphasis was on fewer acrobatic movements on beam, which disadvantaged the French.

On the beam, on this apparatus, where ours seemed to dominate their rivals a few years ago, the difficulty, the daring of dangerous poorly performed dismounts does not pay off, that is to say that the judges prefer fewer acrobatic movements and more control and elegance.

The favorites were the Czechoslovak and Hungarian teams.

Reminder: At the 1948 Olympics, the Czechoslovak team placed first, and the Hungarians were second.

In women’s gymnastics, the Czechs and Hungarians, thanks to rhythmic exercises, are once again competing for first place, followed, as at the Olympic Games, by the Americans and Swedes.

Note: Neither the Hungarian nor the Czechoslovak team competed at the 1950 World Championships.

On the Soviet team

We would like to see the Russians in Basel. They would undoubtedly not dominate the Czechs, the Swedes, and the Hungarians in the compulsory exercises, but if we are to believe the opinions of those who applauded them, their talent, their composure, their audacity would do wonders in the optional exercises, and this would probably enable Gorokhovskaya and especially the seasoned champion Urbanovich to finish better than the current winner of the official USSR tournament, Bocharova.

Previewing the Next Post

Latte mentioned the Hungarian team in his post. At the time of writing his preview, he had no idea what would happen with Hungary just before the World Championships.

That’s the subject of the next post.

The French Original

La Vigie Marocaine on July 7, 1950

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