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European Championships MAG Olympics Perfect 10 WAG World Championships

The Perfect Scores before Nadia Comăneci and Nellie Kim

Before Nadia Comăneci’s and Nellie Kim’s perfect 10s at the 1976 Olympic Games, there was a long line of gymnasts who obtained perfect scores at the Olympic Games, the World Championships, or the European Championships. (Originally, the World Championships were called the International Tournament.)

Some of them even managed perfect totals, meaning that they received the maximum score for their compulsory and optional routines combined.

So, here’s a chronological list of the gymnasts who were “perfect” before Comăneci and Kim.

Kunstturn-WM in Basel 1950: Barren-Sieger Hans Eugster (Photo by RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
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1909 FIG Congress

1909: The Fight over Competition Formats at the FIG Congress

There are pivotal moments in the history of gymnastics — those moments when the sport could have gone in a very different direction.

One of those inflection points was the 1909 FIG Congress. Not much was decided in 1909 because the attendees had wildly divergent views on competition formats.

One proposal called for blind compulsories. In other words, the gymnasts would attend a competition, where they would be shown the compulsories that they had to compete. They wouldn’t know beforehand what to practice.

Can you imagine? The history of gymnastics would look very different if that proposal had been accepted.

That said, not every idea was as wild as blind compulsories. For instance, there was a desire to form a permanent technical committee, which eventually happened decades later.

Dr. Jindřich Vaníček, one of the major figures in gymnastics at the time.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
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1909 MAG World Championships

1909: French Algerian Gymnasts Dominate the World Championships

French gymnasts had been the victors at the first International Tournaments in 1903 and 1905, but the Czech Sokols ended that streak in 1907 when they hosted the International Tournament in Prague. 

A rivalry was forming between the two top teams in Europe: the Czech Sokols and the French. However, the Czech media subtly questioned how European the rivalry was, given that France’s best gymnasts were from Algeria. (The International Tournament was a competition run by the Bureau of European Gymnastics Federations.)

Regardless, the French Algerian gymnasts stole the show in Luxembourg in 1909. In fact, one of them registered two perfect event totals, scoring the maximum number of points for both the compulsory and optional routines on not just one but two events.

Note: French Algerian gymnasts had competed in previous International Tournaments. However, the gymnasts’ place of origin hadn’t been a major topic in the media coverage prior to 1909. The topics of empire and Eurocentrism, though fascinating, are far too thorny to broach in a competition recap.

The Slovenian team at the 1909 International Tournament.
Members included: Karel Fuks, Fran Perdan, Vinko Pristov, Vinko Rabič, Anton Thaler, Stanko Vidmar. Team leader: Dr. Viktor Murnik

Photo: Slovenski Sokol, 1909, 7-8
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1907 FIG Congress

1907: The Sixth FIG Congress Considers Abandoning World Championships

Which gymnastics federations should be allowed to join the Bureau of European Gymnastics Associations (now the FIG)?

How are the International Tournaments different from the Olympic Games? Should there even be an International Tournament? They are costly to run, and President Cupérus was originally opposed to the idea of gymnastics competitions.

These are some of the questions that the Bureau of European Gymnastics Associations had to answer during the 1907 Congress.

Charles Cazalet, source: Wikimedia Commons
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1907 Sokols WAG World Championships

1907: Women’s Gymnastics at the Czech Sokol Rally

Women didn’t compete at the International Tournament in 1907. (They wouldn’t compete at the World Championships until 1934.) But female gymnasts were part of the Fifth Sokol Rally in 1907. 

Let’s take a look at their participation.

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1907 Sokols World Championships

1907: Negative Coverage of the Sokol Rally in the German-Language Press

In the official proceedings of the Sokol Rally, the Czechs wrote:

All the professional journals of Europe have written of the fitness of the Czechs, of the understanding in the nation, and today it is certain that we stand first in their eyes and that we have set the direction and pattern for gymnastic endeavors in Europe.

V slet všesokolský 1907: pamětní list vydaný péči

Všecky odborné časopisy evropské psaly o tělocvičné zdatnosti Čechů, o porozumění v národu a dnes je jisto, že v jejich očích stojíme na prvním místě a že jsme udali směr i vzor tělocvičným snahám v Evropě.

But that statement wasn’t exactly true. The German-language press had quite a few negative things to write about the Czech Sokols after the 1907 slet.

The Czech team at the 1907 International Tournament
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1907 MAG Perfect 10 World Championships

1907: Perfect Scores Abound at the World Championships in Prague

Almost 70 years before Nadia Comăneci and Nellie Kim scored their perfect 10s at the Montreal Olympics, there were several perfect scores awarded during the 1907 International Tournament. (The International Tournament was the original name for the World Championships.) 

The majority of those perfect scores were for the French team. Nevertheless, the Czech Sokols, newcomers to the International Tournament, took first, ending the French team’s winning streak.

Oh, and, in 1907, one of the first age controversies in gymnastics occurred.

The Czech team. Source: V. slet všesokolský 1907: pamětní list vydaný péči
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1907 MAG World Championships

1907: The Rules for the World Championships in Prague

Did you know that, once upon a time, there weren’t gold, silver, and bronze medals at the World Championships? Instead, there was a collection of art, and each team chose which piece of art they wanted. Winners got to choose first.

These are the little tidbits that you learn when you stumble across the rules for old gymnastics meets. Let’s take a look at the rules for the 1907 International Tournament (now called the World Championships).

The Czech team performing the preliminary calisthenics. Source: V. slet všesokolský 1907: pamětní list vydaný péči
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1905 MAG Perfect 10 World Championships

1905: The World Championships That Almost Didn’t Happen

The 1905 International Tournament (now called the World Championships) almost didn’t happen. 

Why?

Because of a debate over rings.

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1938 MAG Perfect 10 World Championships

1938: Another Perfect 10 and Shot Put Struggles during the Men’s Competition at the World Championships

In 1938, Eugen Mack had yet another perfect score on vault. However, it wasn’t enough to beat the Czechoslovak team.

The Swiss team struggled in athletics (and rings). Shot put, in particular, dashed their hopes of becoming world champions.

Reusch, one of the top Swiss gymnasts, had a particularly rough time with athletics. Though Reusch won four apparatus titles, his scores didn’t count for the team total, which was based on the top six all-around scores. Reusch finished 7th on his team and 24th in the all-around overall. He scored a 0 in shot put (7.45 m).

Michael Reusch, Zürcher Illustrierte, July 8, 1938