1961 MAG Universiade WAG

1961: The Official Gymnastics Results for the University Games

At the 1961 University Games (also called the Universiade) in Sofia, Bulgaria, gymnastics was added to the program for the first time. It wasn’t a large competition — only 18 women and 28 men participated in the individual all-around competition.

But there were some big names, including 1960 Olympic gold medalists Mitsukuri Takahashi and Tamara Lyukhina, 1960 silver medalist Yuri Titov, as well as 1960 bronze medalists Sonia Iovan, Emilia Liță, and Elena Leușteanu. (There were other World and Olympic medalists at the competition.)

The events were split between two days: August 27 and August 28. The women competed on beam and floor on the first day and on bars and vault on the second. The men competed on floor, pommel horse, and rings on the first day and on vault, parallel bars, and high bar on the second day.

What follows are the complete results from the competition.

Sportul, September 2, 1961
1961 Czechoslovakia MAG WAG

1961: Šťastný and Růžičková Win the Czechoslovak Championships

In 1961, the Czechoslovak Championships were exciting on the women’s side. Coming into the championships, Věra Čáslavská was the clear favorite. At the Rome Olympics in 1960, she finished eighth in the all-around, the highest finish among the Czechoslovak gymnasts. Then, she tied for third at the 1961 European Championships, finishing behind Larisa Latynina and Polina Astakhova. But, despite her promising international results, Čáslavská had never won a senior national all-around title. 

In 1961, it seemed like the title would finally be Čáslavská’s, but she fell off the beam. And Czechoslovak star Eva Bosáková had a major error on bars. Hana Růžičková was able to capitalize on those mistakes and win the Czechoslovak title. (East German gymnast Ute Starke was a foreign guest and technically had the highest all-around title in the competition.)

On the men’s side, the competition was more anti-climactic. Jaroslav Šťastný, the best gymnast on the Czechoslovak team at the 1961 European Championships, took home the title. (Though, Aleksander Rokosa, a Polish guest, technically had the highest all-around total in the competition.)

Here’s a bit more about the competition.


1961: U.S. Gymnasts Compete in the Soviet Union

In January of 1961, a group of Soviet gymnasts headed to the United States for an extensive tour of the country. Months later, U.S. gymnasts headed to the Soviet Union for a dual meet in August of 1961. In a show of friendship, U.S. and Soviet gymnasts alternated routines. Rather than having an entire team compete back-to-back, a Soviet gymnast competed on, say, vault, and then an American gymnast competed on vault.

Speaking of vault, one of the main stories was a three-way tie for the women’s vault title, which produced a rather cramped podium.

L. Latynina, M. Nikolaeva, and B. Maycock
photo: Pravda, August 25, 1961

In this post, you’ll find news coverage and videos of the trip.


1961: Soviet Gymnasts Tour the United States

In 1971, the Soviet gymnasts did a quick tour of the United States, competing at Penn State and Temple University.

10 years prior, in 1961, the Soviet gymnasts did a much more extensive trip. The women competed at West Chester, while the men competed at Penn State. On top of that, there were exhibitions across the country, including in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Urbana, Illinois; and a performance during an NBA game at Madison Square Garden.

The trip was arranged by the Amateur Athletic Union with the sanction of the U.S. State Department.

Below, you’ll find both U.S. footage, as well as Soviet and U.S. news articles. It’s interesting to see how the gymnasts were depicted in different publications and mediums during the Cold War.

Note: In the next post, we’ll look at the U.S. gymnasts’ trip to the Soviet Union for a competition in August 1961.