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1966 Japan North Korea South Korea

1966: South Korea, North Korea, and an FIG Judges’ Course in Japan

North Korea caused a lot of excitement before the 1970 World Championships. The country’s gymnasts were supposed to compete, which left many gymnastics pundits speculating about North Korea’s chances of placing in the men’s competition. For example, this is what a Swiss newspaper wrote:

The Koreans, in the opinion of Bulgarian specialists, who visited them, do not train less than eight hours a day, at the rate of five practices per week, and, when one knows their natural gifts, one can be certain that their participation “will hurt.” From there, we will have, in our opinion, a peloton comprising the United States, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Switzerland fighting for 5th place.

L’Express, Oct. 22, 1970

Les Coréens, de l’avis de spécialistes bulgares, qui les visitèrent, ne s’entraînent pas moins de huit heures par jour, à raison de cinq entraînements par semaine et, lorsqu’on connaît leurs dons naturels, on peut être certain que leur entrée « fera mal ». Dès lors, on aura, à notre avis, un peloton comprenant, les Etats-Unis, la Tchécoslovaquie, la Pologne et la Suisse luttant pour la 5me place. 

North Korea’s road to participating in FIG competitions and events was a bumpy one, to say the least. While it was hard to gain information on North Korean gymnastics in the 1960s, one story was reported extensively.

At the end of June 1966, the FIG hosted a judges’ course in Tokyo. North Korean delegates were supposed to attend, but there were some hiccups. Let’s take a look at what happened.

Downtown Tokyo streetscape, 1966, Japan, incorporating flyovers and elevated railways
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1966 Gym Nerd Trivia World Championships

1966: Gym Nerd Quiz about the World Championships

If you’re reading this site, you’re a big, ol’ gym nerd at heart. Now, it’s time to see just how much of a gym nerd you are. Take the quiz below to find out.

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1966 WAG World Championships

1966: A Critique of Čáslavská’s Podium Etiquette in Dortmund

Most gym nerds know about Věra Čáslavská’s political stance on the podium at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. (If you don’t, Google it. There’s plenty that has been written about it.) 

But did you know that some saw tension between Čáslavská and the Soviet gymnasts already at the 1966 World Championships?

On October 1, 1966, the Feuille d’avis de Neuchatel published a column called “Le sport vu par une femme” (“Sports as Seen by a Woman”), chastizing Věra Čáslavská for her actions on the podium. Here’s what it said…

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1966 Judging Controversy World Championships

1966: Judging Fatigue at the World Championships

The World Championships are a long slog for judges. The 1966 World Championships in Dortmund were no exception, and, at the time, many believed that the length of the competition impacted the judging.

Ein Blick auf die russische Riege der Turnerinnen mit Natalja Kutschinskaja (r) und Larissa Latynina (Mitte) bei den 16. Kunstturn-Weltmeisterschaften am 24.09.1966 in der Westfalenhalle in Dortmund. Foto: +++(c) Picture-Alliance / ASA+++ | usage worldwide (Photo by Schirner Sportfoto-Archiv/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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1966 Judging Controversy WAG World Championships

1966: Doris Brause Made “Swing the Thing”

Mademoiselle Gymnast, Sept./Oct. 1967

Recap: Doris Brause’s uneven bars routine created quite the sensation at the 1966 World Championships. When she received a 9.766 on bars, the crowd stopped the meet for over an hour, hoping to coerce the judges into raising her score.

The judges didn’t budge.

But uneven bars would never be the same again.

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1966 WAG World Championships

1966: The Women’s Competition at the World Championships

The gymnastics community was buzzing about the women’s competition in Dortmund in 1966. The Soviet Union brought a younger team to the competition, which raised several questions.

Could the Soviets continue to win the team competition?

Could stalwarts like Čáslavská and Latynina continue to dominate the sport?

*Insert dramatic music*

Let’s find out…

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1958 1966 Age USSR

1958: On the Origin of Teenage Gymnasts in the USSR

While Olga Korbut and Nadia Comăneci are often credited with ushering in the era of teenage gymnasts, that’s not the origin story that circulated in the Soviet Union in the 1960s.

Back story: The Soviet Union had relied on adult women in their 20s and 30s for their gymnastics teams. At the 1958 World Championships, their youngest gymnasts were 21 (Astakhova and Kalinina). Czechoslovakia, on the other hand, brought a teenager who had star power.

Čáslavská’s debut: In 1958, 16-year-old Věra Čáslavská made her international debut, winning a team silver at the World Championships in Moscow. And, as the tale goes, it was in that moment that the Čáslavská piqued the interest of the spectators and Soviet coaches alike.

What follows is a translation of a May 20, 1967 article from Неделя (Nedelia), which was the Sunday supplement to Известия (Izvestii︠a︡). (Thanks to Nico for his assistance with the translation.)

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1966 WAG World Championships

1966: The Men’s Competition at the World Championships

As Arthur Gander said during the technical committee meeting, “Finally, gentlemen, a gymnast who shows a routine with none of the elements of risk, originality, and difficulty should never win a world championship.”

Let’s dive into the 1966 World Championships and see if Gander’s words came true.

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1966 1969 1970 FIG Congress Politics World Championships

1966: Notes from the FIG Congress + a Failed Worlds Qualifications

In my post about the men’s technical committee meeting, I noted that Arthur Gander had been voted the next president of the FIG, replacing Charles Thœni.

Let’s take a look at some of the key decisions that were made during the FIG Congress in Dortmund.

As we go through the information, try to guess which decisions became a thorn in Arthur Gander’s side.

L’Express, Wednesday, September 21, 1966
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1966 Men's Technical Committee World Championships

1966: Notes from the Men’s Technical Committee Meeting

1966 was a big year. Charles Thoeni, the president of the FIG, resigned for health reasons. At the 45th Congress, Arthur Gander, president of the Men’s Technical Committee, was elected president of the FIG.

Also, it was the year that “risk, originality, and virtuosity” would become the guiding principle in gymnastics for years to come. Arthur Gander made that perfectly clear during the technical committee meeting and judges course.

Here are some notes from that meeting. They are based on Thomas Maloney’s article in Modern Gymnast, November 1966.