The women’s competition at the 1928 Olympic Games was solely a team competition. As was the women’s competition at the 1934 World Championships. As was the women’s competition at the 1936 Olympic Games.
At the 1938 World Championships, in addition to the team results, a women’s individual all-around champion was crowned for the first time at a major FIG competition. (Note: Previously, there had been individual champions at competitions like the Workers’ Olympics, which were unaffiliated with the FIG.)
Let’s take a look at what happened on June 30 and July 1.
Confusion bookended the 1934 World Championships in Budapest.
Before the competition started, Germany showed up at the FIG Congress, wanting to become a member of the FIG and participate in the 1934 World Championships.
That was not the typical protocol. Usually, countries didn’t seek admission just hours before a competition started. So, the FIG Congress had to answer the question: if the German federation becomes a member one day, can German gymnasts compete at the World Championships the next day?
That was the first source of confusion. After the competition ended, the second source of confusion cropped up. The gymnastics community realized that the initial results had been miscalculated, and all the results had to be recalculated.
Almost 10 years later, in 1958, the Women’s Technical Committee published its first Code of Points.
Of course, women’s gymnastics had rules before this. But this was the first official Code of Points, and as we’ll see, the rules for women’s artistic gymnastics had developed a lot since female gymnasts first competed at the Olympics in 1928.
At the 1934 World Championships in Budapest, women at the World Championships for the first time.
Only five women’s teams participated, but remember that only four men’s teams participated at the first International Tournament, the competition that would become known as the World Championships. (In fact, 1934 was the year that the International Tournament was renamed, becoming known as the World Championships.)
The format for the women’s competition was quite different from modern competitions. There were javelin throws, partner acro exercises, and national dances.
The men’s competition at the 1928 Olympics was a close battle between Czechoslovakia and Switzerland. It came down to the very last event, vault, on which Czechoslovak gymnast Šupčík fell and on which Swiss gymnast Eugen Mack received a perfect score for his compulsory routine.
Modern gymnastics fans might be surprised to know that one of the countries performed to music. During its ensemble floor routine, Yugoslavia told the history of its nation through music and movement. (Technically, it wasn’t Yugoslavia at the time but rather the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes or SHS for short.)
Of course, there was a fair share of judging drama. It’s gymnastics.
Unfortunately, there were some organizational problems, too. Due to a mathematical error, the wrong person received the bronze medal on rings.
At the Olympic Games prior to 1928, the men competed in track and field events, rope climbing, or even an obstacle course (1920).
The Amsterdam Olympics marked a turning point in men’s gymnastics. For the first time, the athletes competed only on gymnastics apparatus at the Olympic Games. No rope climb. No sprints. No high jump. Just apparatus gymnastics.
However, the Olympic program still hadn’t taken its modern form. In 1928, male gymnasts didn’t perform individual floor routines. They did, however, perform on the floor as an ensemble, and, as we’ll discuss in the next post, the Yugoslav team had a remarkable ensemble routine.
Whereas men competed in gymnastics at the very first Olympic Games in 1896, women had to wait until the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, the Official Report provides little commentary on the women’s competition — save for the results, the names of the athletes, and a photo of the French team climbing the double ropes.
But there were newspaper accounts of the events.
In this post, we’ll dive a bit deeper and look at two perspectives: that of the Dutch and that of the French. (The former was written for a general audience, while the latter was written for the gymnastics nerds.)
As we’ll see, there were some glaring issues that needed to be addressed in women’s gymnastics.