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1928 FIG Congress

1928: The Fight over Pole Vault at the 15th FIG Congress + the Complete Minutes

In 1928, the 15th FIG Congress took place on August 6 in Amsterdam. It was the first meeting of the delegates after the death of Nicolas J. Cupérus, the man who led the FIG for 43 years. 

The minutes are fascinating because they show the struggle between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) to define the sport of gymnastics.

Is pole vault a gymnastics event or an athletics event?

In the view of the FIG, it was a gymnastics event, especially since it required the use of apparatus. (It was also part of Jahn’s seminal text, Die Deutsche Turnkunst, though that point did not come up in conversations.) But the IOC didn’t share the FIG’s view.

*Cue dramatic music.*

Reminder: Track and field events like pole vault were part of the World Championships (originally called the International Tournament) until 1950. Here’s a full list of events during the major men’s gymnastics competitions from 1896 until 1950.

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1928 MAG Olympics WAG

1928: The FIG’s Report on the Olympic Games in Amsterdam

Separate from the organizing committee’s Official Report on the 1928 Olympics, the FIG published its own booklet on the gymnastics competition in Amsterdam. What follows is a translation of the report, as well as every score from every judge at the competition — both men’s and women’s.

As you’ll see by the amount of space dedicated to women’s gymnastics in the report, the FIG remained focused primarily on men’s gymnastics.

Let’s dive in.

Cover of the FIG’s booklet on the 1928 Olympics
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1930 MAG World Championships

1930: An Abrupt End to the World Championships in Luxembourg

At the 1930 World Championships (originally called the International Tournament), tragedy struck. Yugoslav gymnast Anton Malej fell during his rings routine and was taken to the hospital, where he later died on July 15, 1930. He was 23.

Despite the accident, the Yugoslav gymnasts kept competing and took home third place. Fellow countryman Josip Primožič won the all-around.

The results, though, should have an asterisk next to them, given that the gymnasts didn’t compete in five of the scheduled events.

The competition was originally scheduled for July 12 and 14, 1930. However, rainy weather on July 14 resulted in a premature end to the competition, and the organizers decided to count only the scores from the first day (i.e. the scores from the apparatus gymnastics portion of the competition).

Reminder: This was not the first time that inclement weather caused problems during the International Tournament. In 1911, Cupérus, the FIG President at the time, wanted the athletes to compete in inclement weather rather than end the competition or finish it the next day. And two years prior, at the 1928 Olympics, the FIG was upset that the stadium was not prepared for inclement weather.

Josip Primožič
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1930 MAG World Championships

1930: The Death of Anton Malej at the World Championships in Luxembourg

During the first day of the 1930 International Tournament, Anton Malej fell from the rings and later died in the hospital. His injury happened on a rather simple skill: an inverted hang. Here’s how Pierre Hentgès, Sr., recalled the injury:

On the rings, during a simple part — an inverted pike hang — the young Yugoslavian gymnast Anton Malej fell so badly that he had to be taken to the hospital immediately for professional treatment with a cervical vertebrae injury.

Olympische Turnkunst, December 1967.

An den Ringen, in einfachem Übungsteil aus dem Sturzhang, fiel der junge jugoslawische Turner Anton Malej so unglücklich, daß er sofort mit einer Halswirbelverletzung zu fachgerechter Behandlung ins Spital überführt werden mußte.

What follows is a translation of Malej’s obituary from Sokolski Glasnik (July 15, 1930).

To read more about the 1930 World Championships, head over to this post.

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1926 MAG World Championships

1926: The Men’s Competition at the World Championships in Lyon

Coming into the 1926 International Tournament in Lyon, France, the Czechoslovak team had won three consecutive team titles at the International Tournament (1911, 1913, and 1922). Plus, they had won the team title at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. So, the 1926 World Championships (called the International Tournament at the time) were an opportunity to further demonstrate their superiority.

Here’s a quick summary of what happened on May 22 and 23, 1926, in Lyon, France.

Peter Šumi, from: Štukelj, Mojih sedem svetovnih tekmovanj
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1922 MAG World Championships

1922: The First World All-Around Champion in Men’s Gymnastics

Prior to 1922, the World Championships (originally called the International Tournament) were team-only events. But in Ljubljana, an individual all-around champion was finally named. Actually, there were co-champions: Šumi of Yugoslavia and Pecháček of Czechoslovakia.

Another major storyline: France almost missed the competition, arriving on the second day of the International Tournament.

Let’s dive into what happened…

Peter Šumi on parallel bars, Muzej novejše zgodovine Slovenije
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Apparatus Norms Evolution WAG

The Evolution of the Apparatus Dimensions in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics

Has the balance beam always been 10 cm wide? When did balance beams start having padding? When did the uneven bars start having tension cables? How far apart were the bars in 1989? Have the landing mats always been 20 cm thick?

The cheat sheet below gives you the basic contours of the ever-changing apparatus norms. 

The first dimensions for bars with tension cables at FIG events.
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Apparatus Norms Evolution MAG

The Evolution of the Apparatus Dimensions in Men’s Artistic Gymnastics

Has the floor exercise area always been 12 m x 12 m? Has the horizontal bar always been 2.80 m high? Have the landing mats always been 20 cm thick?

This cheat sheet gives you the basic contours of the ever-changing apparatus norms.

Dimensions for vaulting boards, 1989 Apparatus Norms
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1949 Code of Points MAG

1949: The History behind the First Men’s Code of Points

The first Code of Points was published in 1949. Though, the seed for the project was planted much earlier, in the 1930s.

Here’s how Pierre Hentgès, Sr., recounts the history of the first CoP.

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2004 Floor Music Olympics WAG

2004: The Floor Music of the Athens Olympics

Bond, Bond, and More Bond: There was a lot of music from the group Bond during the Athens Olympics. The band’s albums Born and Shine came out in 2000 and 2002, respectively. Their music straddled the worlds of contemporary music and classical orchestral music.

The title of a 2004 article gives you an idea of how the musical group was perceived at the time: “Unbreakable Bond; They’re young. They’re sexy. And they’re turning the classical music industry on its head.” (Sarasota Herald Tribune, Nov. 26, 2004).

Movie Soundtracks: As was the case in 2000, movie soundtracks were big in 2004. Examples included Braveheart, Pirates of the Caribbean, Moulin Rouge, and Matrix Revolutions.

ATHENS – AUGUST 23: Catalina Ponor of Romania receives the gold medal for the women’s artistic gymnastics floor exercise event on August 23, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at the Olympic Sports Complex Indoor Hall in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)