1972 MAG Olympics

1972: The Men’s Optionals at the Munich Olympics (Competition 1b)

On Tuesday, August 29, the men’s artistic gymnasts competed in the optionals portion of the competition. (You can read about the compulsories here.) Coming into the finals, Japan had a 2.85 lead over the Soviet Union, and reigning Olympic all-around champion Sawao Kato had a 0.05 lead over Nikolai Andrianov.

Tsukahara once again thrilled the audience with his originality. At the 1970 World Championships, it was his vault that captivated the audience. At the 1972 Olympics, it was his “moon salto” off high bar — an element for the Space Age.

Let’s take a look at what happened during the final day of the team competition.

Tsukahara’s full-twisting double back. Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images.

Quick Links: Results | Commentary | Tsukahara’s Moon SaltoVideos | Qualifiers for the All-Around Finals | Play-by-Play of Japan’s Performance

Team Results

1. JPN47.2046.9047.7046.8547.7548.65285.051
2. URS46.8046.9047.2046.7547.6046.95282.202
3. GDR46.1046.2046.7546.4046.5546.40278.403
4. POL45.9045.2545.5046.1045.5043.75272.005
5. FRG45.1044.8045.1545.2046.5045.50272.254
6. PRK45.0043.2544.8544.3545.5544.80267.808
7. ROM44.8043.7044.0545.8544.4044.00266.809
8. HUN43.7044.5044.5545.8045.5543.95268.056
9. TCH44.4044.9045.0045.9045.3542.45268.007
10. USA43.6040.5544.8545.4043.8043.55261.7511
11. SUI42.8543.6543.1045.5544.0044.65263.8010
12. YUG42.3041.8542.8545.8044.9043.30261.0012
13. FRA42.1039.9541.7045.2043.8543.35256.1513
14. CUB42.6537.4541.6543.7542.9542.20250.6515
15. BUL42.1539.5543.4043.1043.1041.70253.0014
16. ITA41.1538.1041.6543.6543.3041.45249.3016

Reminder: The Swiss team had to compete with five gymnasts after Ettlin landed on his head during the compulsory floor routine.

Competition Commentary

Quick Links: JPN | URS | GDR | FRG | HUN | CUB | AUS | Judging

Japan (1)

The top three teams were a cut above the rest of the field with Japan pulling ahead significantly.

1st Japan, 2nd Russia, 3rd GDR is the order of the Olympic gymnastics team competition. A stereotypical phenomenon that has been around for years and, if appearances do not deceive, will continue to exist for years to come. The class difference between the three gymnastics giants and the other nations has become even greater, both expressed in abstract figures and even more so in the visual effect. Today there is another differentiation within this top group. Japan is enthroned at the top, followed at a considerable distance by the Soviet Russians and the GDR.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Number 404, 30 August 1972 Edition 02

1. Japan, 2. Rußland, 3. DDR ist die Reihenfolge des olympischen Mannschaftswettkampfs der Kunstturner. Eine seit Jahren stereotype Erscheinung, die, wenn nicht alles trügt, noch über Jahre Bestand haben wird. Der Klassenunterschied der drei Turngiganten zu den übrigen Nationen ist noch größer geworden, und zwar sowohl in abstrakten Zahlen ausgedrückt als auch noch vermehrt in der optischen Wirkung. Innerhalb dieser Spitzengruppe gibt es heute noch einmal eine Differenzierung. Zuoberst thront Japan, dann folgen, in beachtlichem Abstand, die Sowjetrussen und die DDR.

The whole Japanese team was impressive, including their lead-off gymnast.

All of the Japanese individuals were outstanding, including their No. 6 man, Teruichi Okamura, who was first man up for the team 12 times. This undoubtedly cost him several tenths on each exercise, yet he still finished 14th in the AA standings from Competition I.

Gymnast, November 1972

There were a few problems on pommel horse.

But then, on pommel horse, both Okamura and Tsukahara made mistakes, and both ended up in the 8-point range, which was a bit disconcerting for a moment, but the third gymnast, veteran and captain Nakayama, made us forget their mistakes with a wonderful performance, scoring 9.40, and from then on, the scores went up steadily. Nakayama’s performance was a great mental boost for the Japanese team, and after that, it seemed as if the Japanese team was on its own.

Japan’s Official Report on the 1972 Olympics in Munich

しかし,どうしたことか鞍馬に入るや、 岡村,塚原と失敗し共に8点台で終わり一瞬ひやりとさせられたが3番手, ベテラン, キャプテンの中山がそのミスを忘れさせるような素晴らしい演技で9.40を取り,以後は尻り上がりに得点を重ねた。 中山のこの演技は,日本チームにとっては大変精神的な面でプラスになりその後はまったく日本チーム一人舞台の感があった。

For a complete play-by-play on the Japanese team’s optional performance, head to the appendix on this page.

A few of the skills being done…

Nakayama’s difficulty included: handspring to layout front, headspring (although it looked as if he pounded his head into the floor!), later including ff, jack-knife back to front support; high V seat and press to handstand; and a full twist in the dismount for a 9.65.

Gymnast, November 1972

Note: A front layout was rare. Joan Moore of the U.S. women’s team also did the skill.

On vault:

In vaulting, Okamura used a handspring 1 ½ [i.e. a handspring front salto] but underturned it and received an 8.8. This vauIt caused a long judge’s conference because they had overscored a Russian on the same vault with a similar break.

Gymnast, November 1972

On parallel bars:

On the parallel bars Tsukahara had a beautiful exercise climaxed with a handstand on one bar followed by snap down and 1 ½ saltos to his feet for a 9.5.

Gymnast, November 1972

But the big skill was Tsukahara’s full-twisting double back off high bar. You can read more about it here.

What was the secret to the Japanese team’s success?

“Devotion and training” and the “determination to win” earned the victory, they said. “The basics of gymnastics is what counts,” said Japanese coach Yukio Endo, a former Olympic gold medalist. “Then the optional exercises come easier.”

The Daily Yomiuri, August 31, 1972

How did the Japanese team celebrate its victory?

By going to Switzerland…

After a while, our gymnastics team left Munich for a relaxing trip to a summer ski resort near Switzerland. The mountains, crowded with skiers in the winter, were picturesque and the setting of “Heidi, Girl of the Alps” itself. I even attempted the trick of tapping the tap directly into a beer keg, but I was drenched in beer to the hilt.

The Path of Beautiful Gymnastics: The Story of Kato Sawao (美しい体操の軌跡加藤沢男物語)

しばらくして、私たち体操チームはミュンヘンを離れ、スイスに近い夏のスキー場へ癒やしの旅に出た。冬はスキーヤーでにぎわう山々は美しく 「アルプスの少女ハイジ」の舞台そのものだった。ビールのたるに直接蛇口をたたき込むという技にも挑んだが、思い切りビールを浴びてしまった。

The Soviet Union (2)

Both Klimenko and Andrianov went out of bounds on floor.

Compared to the vital and energetically elegant Japanese, [the Soviet team’s] style of manner of performance seemed rather reserved. On floor, Klimenko surprised with a double twist and a double somersault, but he “fell” over the edge, which happened to Andrianov shortly afterward. Even greater, however, was his mishap on the horse; after a few parts brilliantly in support backward, he suddenly fell. The fact that he continued to be the best on his team shows that Voronin and Klimenko can no longer keep up with the international elite.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Number 404, 30 August 1972 Edition 02

Gegenüber den vitalen und energisch-eleganten Japanern wirkte ihre Vortragsweise eher verhalten. Im Bodenturnen überraschte Klimenko mit Doppelschraube und Doppelsalto, allerdings «stürzte» er dabei über die Umrandung, was kurz darauf auch Andrianow passierte. Noch größer war jedoch sein Mißgeschick am Pferd; nach einigen Partien glänzend im Stütz rücklings stürzte er unvermittelt. Daß er weiterhin der Beste seiner Mannschaft war, beweist, daß Woronin und Klimenko nicht mehr mit der internationalen Spitze Schritt halten können.

The Soviet team, like the Japanese team, had a few mistakes on pommel horse.

On pommel horse, the first Russian bumped along with many small leg faults. Among the better performances were Klimenko’s 9.55 and Voronin at 9.45. Mikhaelian received 9.25 yet, he too, bumped the horse on his scissors. Andrianov had an obvious break and was given an 8.8 (which did not unduly penalize his AA standing). Later, in an interview he explained that he had poor hand placement in a travel which caused him to falter.

Gymnast, November 1972

In the opinion of Dick Criley (an American), the judges were kind to the Soviet gymnasts on vault. 

The Russians tried hard on vaulting (as did the judges). Schukin overturned a handspring 1 ½ [i.e. a handspring front salto] but received a 9.2 at which the crowd duly whistled their displeasure. Maleev used a full twisting handspring and received 9.2. Voronin also used the full twisting handspring with what appeared to be good technique and the crowd indicated dissatisfaction over his 9.2. Klimenko used the Tsukahara vault for a 9.3. Andrianov did a high handspring 1 ½ a very solid landing for a 9.6.

Gymnast, November 1972

Note: Criley may have suspected biased judging because Boris Shakhlin of the Soviet Union was the head judge.

Apparently the Russians had extra time to warm up on some events such as the vault where Schakhlin was the head judge because they were still warming up after other teams began competition on the other events.

Gymnast, November 1972

Reminder: In 1968, the U.S. commentators were also suspicious of Shakhlin’s scoring, and in Japan’s Official Report on Munich, they weren’t fond of having Shakhlin as the head judge.

Criley also thought that the Soviet gymnasts were overscored on high bar.

High event for the Russians was the horizontal bar, 47.55. 9.5 scores were awarded Schukin and Voronin and 9.6’s to Mikhaelian (who jammed his knee or wrenched his ankle on the dismount) and Andrianov. Klimenko had too many small breaks in his routine to be awarded an obviously high score and received “only” 9.25. (With that many misses, a US gymnast would not have even broken into the 9’s.)

Gymnast, November 1972

The Soviet gymnasts may have been nervous because the East German gymnasts were closer than expected.

The team competition proved that the compulsory exercises were indeed very difficult. After the first day, the Mexican order was rather mixed, and on the second day all the teams, except the Soviet and Swiss teams, scored many more points than in the compulsory.

Even with the two exceptions, there are reasons for the poor performances. The Soviet gymnasts were made very nervous by the unexpectedly close competition with the GDR gymnasts. And the Swiss were down to five men from the second routine of the compulsory due to an injury.

Népsport, Sept. 24, 1972

A csapatversenyen beigazolódott, hogy valóban nagyon nehezek voltak az előírt gyakorlatok. Az első nap után meglehetősen összekeveredett a mexicói sorrend, a második napon pedig a szovjet és a svájci csapat kivételével minden együttes jóval több pontot szerzett, mint a kötelezők során. 

A két kivételnél is van ok a gyengébb szereplésre. A szovjet tornászokat nagyon idegessé tette az, hogy váratlanul szorossá vált a verseny az NDK-beliekkel. A svájciak pedig a kötelezők második gyakorlatától egy sérülés miatt már csak öt emberrel küzdöttek.

In the opinion of the Soviet press, the Soviet team did the best they could with what they had. They simply didn’t have the depth needed to defeat the Japanese.

It cannot be argued that our Olympic team is staffed incorrectly. None of the strong gymnasts worthy of taking a place in it remained at home. But let’s remember how the selection for the national team went. After all, it didn’t really exist. No one, except for those who left for Munich, made any serious claims to the Olympic vacancies. It would be unfair now to blame the youth for the relative failure. Perhaps it would be more useful for 20-year-old Volodya Shchukin to stay at home and gain the experience he so lacks. But there was no one else at the disposal of the national team coaches.

Sovetsky Sport, no. 204, 1972

Нельзя утверждать, что наша олимпийская сборная укомплектована неверно. Никто из сильных гимнастов, достойных занять в ней место, дома не остался. Но вспомним, как шел отбор в, сборную. Ведь его по существу и не было. Основательных претензий на олимпийские вакансии никто, кроме уехавших в Мюнхен, не предъявлял. й Несправедливо было бы сейчас обвинять — в относительной неудаче молодежь. 20-летнему Володе Щукину. быть может, полезнее было бы пока остаться дома и набраться столь недостающего ему опыта. Но в. распоряжений тренеров сборной больше не было никого.

East Germany (3)

Here’s a summary of their performance:

The East German team had an outstanding individual in Klaus Koeste who totaled 57.00 (higher than any Russian though lower than 4 Japanese) in the optional exercises. Because of the tremendous show being put on by the Japanese, it was difficult to pick out highlights from the East German performances. It was noted, for instance, that their vaults tended to be simpler, though very solid and controlled. Rychly performed Czech giants on the HB. Brehme and Koeste both turned in 9.55 HB scores but were topped by Wolfgang Thuene at 9.65. Koeste’s dismount was a cast, front in pike position. As a team, they scored well on the floor exercise from a low of 9.25 for Juergen Paeke who used a running front with stepout, handspring, front as part of his mount, to Koeste’s 9.55.

Gymnast, November 1972

East Germany had a bit of a scare on pommel horse when Thüne botched his dismount.

Back to our team: On the way to their bronze medal our gymnasts had to master some moments late on Tuesday evening, which could only be mastered unitedly. On the side horse, it is customary to start with the “weaker” gymnasts in order to have the lower scores at the beginning. Wolfgang Klotz was noted with 9.05, Reinhard Rychly achieved the same score, Jürgen Päke had 9.25 points credited to the GDR account, Klaus Koste even 9.30. Then Wolfgang Thüne, who had almost achieved a fabulous score of 9.45 points in the compulsory exercise. The others squatted down and suddenly couldn’t believe their eyes: a botched dismount. Only 9.00 points! Matthias Brehme was the last to start his leg twirl on the pommels. In the compulsory he scored 9.25 points. When he goes down, everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Most audibly probably Wolfgang Thüne, because Matthias has conquered 9.35 points and thus made up for a lot. And in the end, for a valuable medal, there are many such situations in which one lent his nerves and his strength to the other.

Neues Deutschland, August 30, 1972

Wieder zu unserer Mannschaft: Auf dem Weg, zu ihrer Bronzemedaille hatten unsere Turner am späten Dienstagabend manchen Augenblick zu meistern, der nur vereint gemeistert werden konnte. Am Seitpferd pflegt man mit den „Schwächeren” zu beginnen, um die niedrigeren Noten am Anfang zu haben. Wolfgang Klotz wurde mit 9,05 notiert, Reinhard Rychly schaffte die gleiche Wertung,- Jürgen Päke ließ 9,25 Punkte auf das DDR-Konto gutschreiben, Klaus Koste sogar 9,30. Dann Wolfgang Thüne, der in der Pflicht mit 9,45 Punkten fast eine Fabelnote erreicht hatte’. Die anderen hockten unten und glaubten plötzlich ihren Augen nicht zu trauen: verpatzter Abgang. Nur 9,00 Punkte! Als letzter beginnt Matthias Brehme seinen Beinwirbel an den Pauschen. In der Pflicht kam er auf 9,25 Punkte. Als er abgeht, atmen alle auf. Am hörbarsten wohl Wolfgang Thüne, denn Matthias hat 9,35 Punkte erobert und damit vieles wettgemacht. Und am Ende stehen für eine wertvolle Medaille viele solcher Situationen, In denen der eine dem anderen seine Nerven und seine Kräfte lieh.

The East German team were heroes in their homeland.

And how closely this team is connected with the homeland can be seen in the number of telegrams arriving at 24 Connolly Street, the GDR house. When the “collector” on duty returned to the post office at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday evening, he found a notice in the GDR box asking him to report to the counter. There he was told that the box had proved too small and that in the future the telegrams would be stacked in a mail basket ready for collection. At 9 p.m., the number of telegrams counted on Tuesday alone had already exceeded 500!

Neues Deutschland, August 30, 1972

Und wie eng diese Mannschaft mit der Heimat verbunden ist. kann man in der Connollystraße 24. dem Haus der DDR. auch an der Zahl der eintreffenden Telegramme ablesen. Als der diensthabende „Abholer” Dienstagabend gegen 20.00 Uhr wieder zur Post kam, fand er im Fach der DDR die Benachrichtigung vor, er möge sich am Schalter melden. Dort eröffnete man ihm. daß sich das Fach als zu klein erwiesen habe und man deshalb künftig die Telegramme in einem Postkorb stapeln werde, der zur Abholung bereit- steht. Um 21 Uhr war die Zahl 500 allein am Dienstag gezählt — bereits überschritten!

West Germany (5)

One of their top gymnasts didn’t make it to the Olympics due to a torn Achilles.

Werner Steinmetz found himself struggling and dropped out of the 1972 Olympic Games with a torn Achilles tendon, just as he was preparing to become number 5 or 6 in the DTB.

Jahrbuch der Turnkunst, 1973

Zu allem Unglück letzte sich nach einer großartigen Steigerung im Pflichtturnen Werner Steinmetz schwer und fiel mit einem Achillessehnenriß für die Olympischen Spiele 1972 aus, just in dem Augenblick, da er sich anschickte, Ranglisteturner Nr. 5 oder 6 im DTB zu werden.

The optional round was a bit rough for the West German team.

Since Effing is known to be a good gymnast at optionals, there was justified optimism in the DTB camp that five of the team could get into the final of the 36 individual all-around athletes, a competition that was held at these games for the first time. But the optional portion was under a less favorable star. Gienger botched his optional pommel horse routine (7.85); it went well on the rings (Mössinger 9.40!), also quite well on vault, but not well enough here; again excellent on parallel bars (Gienger 9.55, Spies 9.40) and then unfortunately extremely difficult on high bar: Ritter fell (7.80), Effing had trouble once (8.65), which ended those two gymnasts’ dreams of making the final.

Jahrbuch der Turnkunst, 1973

Da man Effing als guten Kürturner kennt, herrschte ein berechtigter Optimismus im DTB-Lager, man könne fünf der Mannschaft ins Finale der 36 Einzelmehrkämpfer bringen, ein Wettbewerb, der erstmals bei diesen Spielen durchgeführt wurde. Aber die Kür stand unter einem weniger günstigen Stern. Gienger verpatzte seine Pferdkür (7,85); es lief gut an den Ringen (Mößinger 9,40!), recht gut auch beim Pferdsprung, aber hier schon nicht gut genug; dafür wieder ausgezeichnet am Barren (Gienger 9,55, Spies 9,40) und dann leider überaus mißlich am Reck: Ritter stürzte (7,80), Effing hatte einmal Mühe (8,65), da war der Traum der beiden, ins Finale zu gelangen, ausgeträumt.

All in all, the team was proud of its performance.

But the fact that the DTB also had unexpectedly great success in gymnastics fills us all with pride and joy. After finishing 8th at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico and the embarrassing 10th place at the 1970 World Championships in Ljubljana, it was the goal of the national coach and the federal specialist Albert Zellekens to advance to 6th place in Munich. This advance resulted in 5th place and almost even fourth place, which was already achieved after the compulsories. If it hadn’t been for the fact that four of our gymnasts had suffered minor, but painful and obstructive injuries during the optionals, we might have been able to claim fourth place; certainly, if two gymnasts, Toni Unden and Werner Steinmetz, hadn’t dropped out early due to injury, they would have been in the team based on their talent and level of performance.

Jahrbuch der Turnkunst, 1973

Daß aber auch turnerisch ein unerwartet großer Erfolg des DTB zu verzeichnen war, erfüllt uns alle mit Stolz und Freude. Nach dem 8. Rang bei den Olympischen Spielen 1968 in Mexiko und dem blamablen 10. Rang bei den Weltmeisterschaften 1970 in Laibach war es das Ziel der Bundestrainer und des Bundesfachwartes Albert Zellekens, in München bis zum 6. Rang vorzustoßen. Es wurde aus diesem Vorstoß ein 5. Rang und fast sogar ein vierter, der nach dem Pflichtturnen bereits erreicht war. Hätten nicht kleinere, aber schmerzliche und hinderliche Verletzungen bei vier unserer Turner in der Kür den Tatendrang gebremst, es wäre vielleicht auch der 4. Rang zu behaupten gewesen, sicherlich dann, wenn nicht mit Toni Unden und Werner Steinmetz durch Verletzung schon vorzeitig zwei Turner ausgefallen wären, die ihrem Talent und Leistungsstand nach wohl in der Mannschaft gestanden wären. 

But the West Germans were aware of their rising competition.

In the future, one will have to watch out for the North Koreans; who surpassed us in the optionals, to the young Hungarians, and to the Cubans, who have improved the most since Ljubljana. Overcoming the Poles must be a short-term goal for our gymnasts. In purely professional terms, it is important to cultivate our gymnastics style even more, to give the exercises even more virtuosity and expression, as Gienger has already done on four apparatus, Mößinger and Spies on three, and Effing on floor exercise.

Jahrbuch der Turnkunst, 1973

In Zukunft wird man auf die Nordkoreaner zu achten haben; die uns in der Kür übertrafen, auf die jungen Ungarn und auf die Kubaner, die sich am meisten seit Laibach verbessert haben. Die Polen zu überturnen, muß ein Nahziel unserer Kunstturner sein. Im rein Fachlichen gilt es, den Turnstil noch mehr zu kultivieren, den Übungen noch mehr Virtuosität und Ausdruck zu verleihen, wie dies Gienger schon an vier Geräten gelingt, Mößinger und Spies an drei und Effing im Bodenturnen.

Hungary (8)

The team had hoped to finish in the top six.

The men hoped for one day that their team would score points and that they would finish in the top six again after many years. It does not detract from their achievement that they failed to do so. It seems that the Hungarian men’s tournament has also moved on from its previous stalemate. Future success will be theirs, as they strive to achieve the best possible team result. The experience in Munich has shown that gymnasts from teams that have achieved balanced performances have been placed in the top individual places.

Képes Sport, Sept. 5, 1972

A férfiak egy napig reménykedtek, hogy csapatuk is pontot fog szerezni, és hogy sok esztendő után ismét az első hat között végeznek. Semmit sem von le teljesítményük értékéből, hogy ez nem sikerült. Úgy látszik, hogy a magyar féri torna is elmozdult korábbi holtpontjáról. A jövő sikereit a hozhatja meg számukra, a minél jobb csapateredmény elérésére törekednek. A müncheni tapasztalatok szerint csa olyan csapatokból kerültek elikelő egyéni helyekre tornásza amelyek kiegyensúlyozott tejesítményt tudtak nyújtani. 

Nevertheless, the team had met the Hungarian Olympic Committee’s objective.

Here’s what Szűh, Hungary’s Olympic sports director, said in an interview:

The men’s team met largely the Hungarian Olympic Committee’s objective to have rankings in the top ten. In the middle-rank the team no longer played a subordinate role. And even though the team could not keep the unexpected sixth place after the mandatory exercises, it was three percentage points from the seventh place.  We also have to take it into account that since the Korean DPR also takes part the men’s field became far stronger since the world championship.  Molnár’s 19th place in the all-around is a big step up since in Mexico he was 64th and in Ljubljana he was 45th. And only a tenth was missing to get into the finals with the pommel horse.  We would also like to add that half of the team — especially Magyar — comprises of young people and they may mature for the next world championships — finished the evaluation Csaba Szuh.  

Népsport, Sept. 4, 1972

A férficsapat messzemenően teljesítette a MOB-nak azt a célkitűzését, hogy egyszámjegyű helyezést érjen el. A középmezőnyben már nem játszott alárendelt szerepet és ha a kötelezők után nem is tudta megtartani az egészen váratlan hatodik helyet, mindössze három századdal maradt el a hetedik helytől. Figyelembe kell venni azt is, hogy a Koreai NDK részvételével erősebb lett a férfimezőnye a VB-hez képest. Az összetettben Molnár 19. helye is nagy előrelépés a mexicói 64., vagy a ljubljanai 45. helyezéshez képest, s a lólengésben mindössze egy tized hiányzott ahhoz, hogy a szerenkénti döntőbe kerüljön. Hozzátehetjük még, hogy a csapat tagjainak fele —élén Magyarral — fiatal és a következő világversenyekre érhet be igazán — fejezte be az értékelést Szuh Csaba.

Cuba (14)

Was Cuba’s improvement during the optionals too good to be true?

Among the teams taking part, the Cubans looked the most improved over their compulsory set (but 19 points worth?). 

Gymnast, November 1972

The Cubans were known for their tumbling.

Cuervo mounted on FX with a double back, included a sideward aerial, and dismounted with RO, ff, suicide tuck back to back roll straddle stand; RO, ff, double twist. His 9.45 tied Ginés for high score of the set. Teammate Rodriguez used a similar final pass, concluding with a single full twist. Tall Roberto Richards’ exercise was well composed to make effective use of his height. For a tall gymnast, his tumbling was quite strong.

Gymnast, November 1972


From 1928 until 1968, Finland always managed to win at least one medal in men’s artistic gymnastics. 1972 marked the end of an era. No Finnish gymnast was in a position to win a medal.

Sport today is fast-moving, and decades of tradition are quickly forgotten. During the gymnasts’ compulsories, it became clear once again…

The name Finland is associated with the memory of great achievements — Olympic Games of the past withou Finnish gymnastics medals — that was rare.

In 1972, however, a team from Suomi was absent from the men’s competition; Mauno Nissinen, 25 years old, was the only representative of the Blue and White Team among the individual competitors. And when the final stroke was drawn under the “school work” of Sunday, Mauno Nissinen was in the 37th place in the overall ranking. A 9.10 on the pommel horse and a 9.00 on the vault were his best scores – and despite the optionals still to be performed today, it is probably already certain that Finland will remain without the “usual” gymnastics medal in 1972.

An era came to an end; whether it will ever find its continuation, in view of the enormous progress made by some other countries, remains questionable: fame and medals always want to be fought for anew…

Deutsches Sportecho, August 29, 1972

Der Sport unserer Tage ist schnelllebig, und jahrzehntelange Traditionen sind schnell vergessen. Bei den Pflichtwettbewerben der Turner wurde es einmal mehr deutlich…
Mit dem Namen Finnland verbindet sich die Erinnerung an großartige Leistungen — Olympische Spiele der Vergangenheit ohne finnische Turn-Medaillen, das gab es selten.
1972 aber fehlte eine Mannschaft  Suomis bei den Wettbewerben „der Herren; Mauno Nissinen, der 25jährige, turnte als einziger Repräsentant der Blau-WeiBen in der Riege der Einzel – Aktiven. Und als der Schlußstrich unter die „Schularbeiten“ des Sonntags gezogen wurde, lag Mauno Nissinen auf Rang 37 der Gesamtwertung. Eine 9,10 am Seitpferd und eine 9,00 im Sprung waren seine besten Wertungen — und trotz der heute noch ausstehenden Kür dürfte bereits  feststehen, daß Finnland im Jahr 1972 ohne die „übliche“ Turn – Medaille bleibt.
Eine Ara ging zu Ende; ob sie jemals, angesichts der enormen Fortschritte einiger anderer Länder, ihre Fortsetzung finden wird, bleibt fraglich: Ruhm und Medaillen wollen immer wieder neu erkämpft werden…


The Australian performance was creditable, and the feeling is that our gymnastics was not that far behind that of the lower teams. International experience is a must, as the competition environment and pressures are quite different from a state or national championship. Our gymnasts carry the extra burden of knowing that what they do in World Championships or Olympic Games could decide the future of Australian gymnastics and representation of these championships. The Australian members at Munich did everything they could to assure future gymnasts a favorable reception at these championships.

Peter Lloyd, Australian Gymnast, Dec. 1972

Quotes on the Judging

The disease of national prejudice among the judges again favored the East Europeans. The North Korean coach, in an interview with ABC’s Tom Maloney, felt that the judging was not good and that the judges did not appreciate difficulty or originality. He felt that North Korea should have been able to finish 3rd or 4th with fair judging but stated that they intended to finish in the top 3 by 1976.

In an interview session following Japan’s capture of the team award, Coach Yukio Endo was asked about a quote attributed to him that the Japanese would win all 8 gold medals in the men’s division. He disclaimed the strong “would” but said that they “should” win them. “Japan came to win and were proud to continue their winning streak.” When queried about the jury being favorable to the Russian team, Endo parried the question but Masao Takemoto, Head Coach for the Japanese men also told Tom that, “The judging at the 1972 Olympic Games was not good. We Japanese know we will be underscored by the Communist judges, but we train harder and try to show the judges there is a gap between the Japanese gymnasts and other nations. The judging in Munich was much worse than in Ljubjana at the World Games. I can only hope the judges will improve in the future. At the present time, they do not look for originality and only abide by the rules and do not give credit for new movements.”

Gymnast, Nov. 1972

A Dismount for the Space Age: The “Moon Salto”

Originally, Tsukahara’s half-in-half-out double back off high bar was called an “astronaut jump”

The Japanese showed off a series of new tricks, including a “half-in, half-out” turn and twist by Tsukahara.

The coach described it as a “Tsukahara jump,” while Japanese observers thought a more appropriate name, for the double somersault with a half twist in-between, while working the horizontal bars [sic], would be the “astronaut jump.”

The Daily Yomiuri, August 31, 1972

But it became known as the “moon salto,” as you can see in this spectacular image from the 1972 Chunichi Cup program.

The heading reads “Moon Salt[o]”

The name stuck.

Here’s how the Soviet newspaper Sovetsky Sport wrote about the 1974 World Championships.

One thing is disturbing: on his last event — floor exercise — while performing the “moon salto,” whose inventor on floor is our Marchenko, Kolya [Andrianov] landed awkwardly, jumped from the platform on one leg.

Sovetsky Sport, no. 252, 1974

Одно, тревожит: на последнем своем снаряде— вольных, исполняя «лунное сальто», первооткрывателем которого на ковре является наш Марченко, Коля неловко  приземлился, запрыгал с помоста на одной ноге.

You can even hear the commentator use the term “moon salto” in this video from the 1996 Olympics (0:27).

According to Kato Sawao, Tsukahara took inspiration from the trampoline.

At the Munich Olympics, Mitsuo Tsukahara’s “lunar somersault” was a scene that thrilled the audience and the world. It is also known as a “moon salto”. I remember that Mr. Tsukahara had tried it several times before, but I think it was the first time he performed it on the big stage.


He took his inspiration from the trampolines and worked on developing his own.




Note: Tsukahara had performed the skill at the Riga International in 1972.


Let’s start this section with a compilation of routines, and then, we’ll look at some individual routines.


Moderator: A small mistake, of course, only 12,000 were in the Hall, because its capacity is not bigger. The traditional duel, which has been going on since 1956, between these two teams fascinated everyone in the venue. For Japan, Shigeru Kasamtsu must first to the rings, contrary to what the overlay said at the time.
[pause 00:00:20] [00:00:30]
[applause] [00:01:00]
Moderator: For the USSR Nikolai Adrianov with his parallel bars routine.
[pause 00:01:14]
Moderator: While Adrianov finishes his routine, the audience admires the routine of a young German, who is considered the biggest surprise of these competitions. [00:02:00] Eberhard Gienger, the future world champion on his showpiece exercise.
[pause 00:02:05]
Moderator: A great exercise by [00:02:30] Eberhard Gienger. The German team does surprisingly well, is called the biggest surprise of the competitions at the Munich Games. In the end, the 5th place in the team all-around is achieved. Eberhard Gienger in particular establishes himself among the world’s best and two years later becomes world champion on the high bar.
[pause 00:02:48] [00:03:00] [applause]
Moderator: The gymnasts from the GDR are even more successful than the athletes from the Federal Republic, and in Munich they are almost able to stand up to the two big gymnastics nations. On the floor their best gymnast, Klaus Köste.
[pause 00:03:28]

Moderator: The fight for 3rd place is a tough duel between the team of the GDR and Poland, [00:04:30] but then this mistake by Jerzy Kruza for the Poles on the horse jump. On the side horse, the last gymnast for the GDR, Wolfgang Thüne. Still the fight for bronze was not finally decided.
[pause 00:04:46]
Moderator: A slightly unsuccessful exit by Wolfgang Thüne, but it’s enough. The GDR takes the bronze medal and we go back to the duel at the top. This is Vladimir Shchukin from the USSR with his high bar routine.
[pause 00:05:18]
Moderator: Perfect landing, good score, yet the gap to the Japanese is widening again. But we take another look at the team from the Federal Republic. On the ground Walter Mössinger.
[pause 00:05:55]
[00:06:00] [pause 00:06:00]
Moderator: Despite some small wobbles [00:07:00], an overall successful routine. The spectators in the Olympic Hall are thrilled about the unexpectedly good performance of the West German team, but the decision for gold and silver will be made at the top. We see Mitsuo Tsukahara on his showpiece apparatus, the high bar.
[pause 00:07:19]
Moderator: A perfect performance by Tsukahara, which actually deserved a 10th of a point more, [00:08:00] but the strict judges in Munich only award a 9.9. The Japanese team doesn’t care, because as in Rome, Tokyo and Mexico, Olympic team gold also goes to their country in Munich. Tsukahara’s skills on the high bar and his irresistible grin turn the Japanese gymnast into the spectators’ favorite in the Olympic Hall.
[pause 00:08:21]
Moderator: Here is the result once again. Japan wins gold, ahead of the team from the USSR and the gymnasts from the GDR. What else happened on this day, Max Schautzer will tell you now, as always.

Moderator: Ein kleiner Irrtum, es waren natürlich nur 12.000 in der Halle, denn größer ist ihr Erfassungsvermögen nicht. Der traditionelle Zweikampf, der seit 1956 anhielt, zwischen diesen beiden Mannschaften, faszinierte jeden in der Halle. Für Japan muss zunächst Shigeru Kasamtsu an die Ringe, anders als die Einblendung damals besagte.
[pause 00:00:20] [00:00:30]
[Applaus] [00:01:00]
Moderator: Für die Sowjetunion Nikolai Adrianow mit seiner Barrenübung.
[pause 00:01:14]
Moderator: Während Adrianow seine Übung beendet, bewundert das Publikum, die eines jungen Deutschen, der als die größte Überraschung dieser Wettkämpfe gilt. [00:02:00] Eberhard Gienger, der spätere Weltmeister an seinem Paradegerät.
[pause 00:02:05]
Moderator: Eine großartige Übung von [00:02:30] Eberhard Gienger. Die deutsche Mannschaft schlägt sich überraschend gut, wird als größte Überraschung der Wettkämpfe bei den Münchener Spielen bezeichnet. Am Ende bringt der 5.Platz im Mannschaftsmehrkampf heraus. Besonders Eberhard Gienger etabliert sich in der Weltspitze und wird zwei Jahre später Weltmeister am Reck.
[pause 00:02:48] [00:03:00] [Applaus]
Moderator: Noch erfolgreicher als die Athleten aus der Bundesrepublik sind die Turner aus der DDR, die in München schon beinahe den beiden großen Turnnationen Paroli bieten können. Am Boden ihr bester Mann, Klaus Köste.
[pause 00:03:28]
Moderator: Der Kampf um den dritten Platz ist ein harter Zweikampf zwischen der Mannschaft der DDR und Polens, [00:04:30] aber dann dieser Fehler von [unintelligible 00:04:32] für die Polen beim Pferdsprung. Am Seitpferd, der letzte Turner für die DDR, Wolfgang Thüne. Noch war der Kampf um Bronze nicht endgültig entschieden.
[pause 00:04:46]
Moderator: Ein etwas missglückter Abgang von Wolfgang Thüne, aber es reicht. Die DDR holt sich die Bronzemedaille und wir gehen wieder zum Zweikampf an der Spitze. Das ist Vladimir Shchukin aus der UdSSR mit seiner Reckübung.
[pause 00:05:18]
Moderator: Perfekte Landung, gute Note, dennoch wird der Abstand zu den Japanern wieder größer. Wir schauen aber noch einmal hinüber zur Mannschaft aus der Bundesrepublik. Am Boden Walter Mössinger.
[pause 00:05:55]
[00:06:00] [pause 00:06:00]
Moderator: Trotz einiger kleiner Wackler [00:07:00], eine insgesamt geglückte Übung. Die Zuschauer in der Olympiahalle sind begeistert über das unerwartet gut Abschneiden des bundesdeutschen Teams, aber die Entscheidung in Gold und Silber fällt an der Spitze. Wir sehen Mitsuo Tsukahara an seinem Paradegerät, dem Reck.
[pause 00:07:19]
Moderator: Eine perfekte Vorstellung von Tsukahara, die eigentlich einen Zehntel-Punkt mehr verdient hätte, [00:08:00] aber die strengen Kampfrichter in München vergeben nur eine 9,9. Der japanischen Mannschaft ist es egal, denn wie schon im Rom, Tokyo und Mexiko, geht auch in München olympisches Mannschaftsgold in ihr Land. Die Künste von Tsukahara am Reck und sein unwiderstehliches Grinsen machen den Japaner zum Zuschauerliebling in der Olympiahalle.
[pause 00:08:21]
Moderator: Hier also noch einmal das Ergebnis. Japan gewinnt Gold, vor der Mannschaft aus der UdSSR und den Turnern aus der DDR. Was an diesem Tag sonst noch passiert ist, sagt Ihnen jetzt, wie immer, Max Schautzer.

Kato Sawao (JPN) on Vault:

Kato Sawao (JPN) on Parallel Bars:

Nakayama Akinori (JPN) on Rings:

Kasamatsu Shigeru (JPN) on Pommel Horse

Nikolai Andrianov (URS) on High Bar:

Edvard Mikaelian (URS) on High Bar:

Viktor Klimenko (URS) on Parallel Bars

Jorge Cuervo (CUB) on High Bar

You can watch Cuervo’s floor and vault on YouTube.

Individual All-Around Qualifiers

Note: The number under each name is the average of the compulsory and optional scores. That number carried over into the all-around finals and was added to the gymnast’s scores from the all-around finals.

1. Kato
2. Kenomtsu
3. Kasamatsu
4. Nakayama
5. Andrianov
6. Köste
7. Voronin
8. Klimenko
9. Mikaelian
10. Breheme
11. Tsukahara
12. Thüne
13. Kubica
14. Okamura
15. Szajna
16. Koltz
17T. Li
Song Sob
17T. Kubica
19. Maleev
20. Molnár
21. Schukin
22. Rychly
23. Kubica
24. Gienger
25. Mößinger
26. Kim
Song Yu
27. Hug
28. Rohner
29. Päke
30. Mihăiuc
31T. Spies
31T. Magyar
33. Kim
34. Grecu
35. Fejtek
36. Nissinen
37. Brodnik
Note: According to the Polish Olympic Committee’s biography on Mikołaj Kubica, he did not compete in the all-around finals due to an injury. As a result, Yugoslav’s Janez Brodnik competed in the all-around finals.

Appendix: Play-by-Play of Japan’s Performance during the Optionals

In the optional routines, Japan started with floor exercise, Okamura and Tsukahara scored 9.40 and 9.45, Nakayama showed his skill to the fullest, scoring 9.65. In the second half of the rotation, all three gymnasts performed with a comfortable margin, and their scores went up steadily.

But then, on pommel horse, both Okamura and Tsukahara made mistakes, and both ended up in the 8-point range, which was a bit disconcerting for a moment, but the third gymnast, veteran and captain Nakayama, made us forget their mistakes with a wonderful performance, scoring 9.40, and from then on, the scores went up steadily. Nakayama’s performance was a great mental boost for the Japanese team, and after that, it seemed as if the Japanese team was on its own.

Although there were a few mistakes on the rings, all the members of the Japanese team performed strong, creative, and wonderful movements, especially Nakayama, whose bold and daring performance captivated the audience. All eyes were on the Japanese athletes, who, under the direction of Team Leader Endo and knowing their own pace, were marching toward victory.

On vault, Okamura and Tsukahara failed again following the pommel horse, scoring only 8 points, but the other four athletes scored well, and despite the difficult vault, they finished without any worries and passed the final barrier to win the competition. Parallel bars and horizontal bar were the sole domain of the Japanese team. One after another, the Japanese athletes climbed up on the platform and performed excellent performances, the unique movements and the difficult moves they performed made them stand out from the rest of the countries, and it felt like a competition of Japanese athletes.

After Kato’s performance on high bar, Japan’s fourth consecutive Olympic victory was decided, but Tsukahara followed with a series of spectacular moves to add to the victory, and finally succeeded in the lunar somersault, the most difficult move on high bar, with a score of 9.90, the highest of the competition. The crowd was on its feet, cheering him on, and Tsukahara finally stepped forward and bowed to the crowd.

The success of this lunar somersault must have been a moment that Tsukahara will never forget for the rest of his life. I admire the indomitable spirit that enabled him to overcome many dangers and succeed through repeated hard training. The team win was the fourth consecutive victory for Japanese gymnastics, and it made us fully aware of the great strength of Japanese gymnastics.

Japan’s Official Report on the 1972 Olympics in Munich

自由は,ゆかから日本チームは,入り岡村, 塚原,が9.40, 9.45と得点, 中山は熟練さを思う存分発揮して9.65, 後半3名も余裕をもって演技し、順調に得点をあげていく。

しかし,どうしたことか鞍馬に入るや、 岡村,塚原と失敗し共に8点台で終わり一瞬ひやりとさせられたが3番手, ベテラン, キャプテンの中山がそのミスを忘れさせるような素晴らしい演技で9.40を取り,以後は尻り上がりに得点を重ねた。 中山のこの演技は,日本チームにとっては大変精神的な面でプラスになりその後はまったく日本チーム一人舞台の感があった。

つり輪に入り監物のミスがあったものの全員力強い独創的な, そして素晴らしい振りの運動を披露し,特に中山は、 思い切った演技で一寸のくるいもなく,その演技を見守る観衆はかたずをのんで注目している。全べての観衆の目は、日本選手に向けられ,また,日本選手は自己のペースを十分知りつつ遠藤チーム・リーダーの指示で, 優勝へ向かって快進撃, まったく気持の良い思いである。

跳馬では,岡村, 塚原が鞍馬に続いてまたもや失敗し8点台であったが、他の4人は確実に得点を重ね,苦しい跳馬ではあったが, 心配することなく終え,優勝の最終関門を切りぬけた。 平行棒、鉄棒は,日本チームの独壇場で、次々と日本選手は台上に上がり, 素晴らしい演技を行ない, 個性ある動きと,難度の高い技を組み入れたその内容は,他の国の選手を完全に引き離し, 日本選手の演技会の感じすらする思いであった。

鉄棒での加藤の演技が終了した時点で,日本チームのオリンピック4連勝は決定したが, 続く塚原選手はその優勝に花を添える雄大な技をくり広げ、最後は今まで一度も着地で成功せず終っていた月面宙返りを行ない,ついにその鉄棒最高難度の技を成功させ 9.90という本大会最高点をマークした。 観衆は総立ちとなり,場内は大喝采, ついに塚原は一歩前に出て観衆に向かって一礼 二礼して終わった。

この月面宙返りの成功は、本人にとっては終生忘れることのできない一瞬であったことであろう。苦しい練習を重ね, 幾度もの危険を乗りこえ, 成功させた不屈の精神力には,敬服する。 日本体操の偉大な強さを十分認識させ団体優勝 4連勝を樹立したのである。

More on 1972

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.