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1969 European Championships Romania WAG

1969: Romania’s “Re-Launch” after Skipping the Mexico City Olympics

In 1968, Romania didn’t send any gymnasts to the Olympic Games ostensibly out of fear of poor performance. In a column for the Romanian newspaper Sportul, Elena Leușteanu, a three-time Olympic bronze medalist in gymnastics, explained that the decision was both a “discreet gesture” and a “diplomatic tactic.”

Our non-participation in gymnastics was actually a discreet gesture and a diplomatic tactic. Discreet gesture — because, by not participating, we were acknowledging, in a way, that the value of our opponents is higher than ours and would have not suited us to make it official, especially in a competition in which a kind of opinion is developed that can be harmful for us for at least two years, if not four years, before the next Olympic competition. Diplomatic tactic — because although we have genuine assets, recognized even at the “Olympic Hope Competition,” their maturation is planned for the next 3-4 years. I think this is the reason that would suit us best and explain our intention to return to the arena of major competitions only when we have a team that can and knows how to keep and conquer new positions aimed at raising the prestige of our gymnastics.

Sportul, March 7, 1969

Neprezentarea noastră la gimnastică a fost de fapt un gest discret și o tactică diplomatică. Gest discret — pentru că prin neparticipare recunoșteam, într-un fel, că valoarea adversarilor este mai bună decît a noastră și acest lucru nu ne-ar fi convenit să-l oficializăm mai ales într-o competiție în care se formează un fel de opinie care ne poate fi dăunătoare cel puțin doi ani înainte, dacă nu patru ani, pînă la viitoarea întrecere olimpică, tactică diplomatică , pentru că deși avem valori autentice, recunoscute chiar la „Concursul speranțelor olimpice“, maturizarea lor este planificată în următorii 3—4 ani. Acesta cred că este motivul care ne-ar prinde cel mai bine și explica de fapt intenția de a reveni în arena marilor concursuri numai atunci cînd vom avea o echipă care să poată și să știe a păstra și cuceri noi poziții menite să ridice prestigiul gimnasticii noastre.

At the 1969 European Championships, the Romanian gymnasts did, in fact, conquer “new positions” — at least compared to recent history. Rodica Apăteanu finished eighth, and Felicia Dornea, the youngest competitor in the competition, finished twelfth. Their finishes were a marked improvement over the 1967 Europeans, where the top Romanian gymnast — Elena Ceampelea — finished seventeenth.

The Romanian press struck an optimistic note after the 1969 Women’s European Championships, calling the gymnasts’ performances a “good omen” for the future. At the same time, there was a bit of blunt criticism, as we will see in the column below.

So what? Why does this matter? It’s important to take the temperature in 1969 so that we can track the rise of Romanian women’s gymnastics from no participation in 1968 to team silver in 1976.

Rodica Apăteanu, 1969
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1969 USSR

1969: Head Coaches Larisa Latynina and Vladimir Smolevsky on the USSR Championships

After the USSR Championships in October of 1969, the Moscow newspaper Nedelia interviewed the head coaches of the women’s and men’s national teams: Larisa Latynina and Vladimir Smolevsky.

But instead of asking them about their respective teams, Latynina had to comment on men’s gymnastics, and Smolevsky had to comment on women’s gymnastics. It’s fascinating to see what each coach admires about the other discipline and what irks them, as well. For example, Smolevsky despises “bad ballet” on floor.

What follows is a translation of their remarks. (Thanks to Luba for her assistance.)

Categories
1969 East Germany Japan Politics USA USSR

1969: East Germany vs. Japan’s Foreign Office

The Japanese Gymnastics Association wanted to invite East Germany to a competition with the Soviet Union and the United States. However, Japan did not have diplomatic relations with East Germany until May of 1973.

So, what would happen if an East German gymnast won the competition? Would the meet organizers still hoist the flag for a nation that Japan didn’t recognize?

Unless you lived through the Cold War, it’s hard to imagine the complicated diplomatic hoops countries had to jump through. The following article painstakingly details many of the scenarios that the Japanese meet organizers had to consider when inviting East Germans to a gymnastics competition.

The East German Flag, 1959 – 1973
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1969 Apparatus Norms MAG

1969: The Problems with Vault in Men’s Gymnastics

If you were going to remove one event from the men’s program, which would it be?

In 1969, vault in men’s artistic gymnastics was a major sticking point. Gymnasts were performing the same vault over and over, and some thought that the hand zones were pointless. At an FIG coaches’ meeting, some even thought that the apparatus should be eliminated.

Let’s dive into the concerns…

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1969 Compulsories

1969: Compulsories Extended to Four Years

Compulsory routines used to change every two years. There would be one set of routines for the World Championships, and then, two years later, there would be a new set of routines for the Olympic Games.

That changed in 1969. Though, the Men’s Technical Committee and Women’s Technical Committee took two divergent paths.

A page from the 1972 rulebook for women’s artistic gymnastics
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1969 Japan MAG USSR WAG

1969: Olga Korbut’s Win at the Japan vs. USSR Dual Meet

At the 1969 European Championships, Mikhail Voronin was looking ahead to the competition between Japan and the Soviet Union. However, he didn’t end up competing in the meet.

But you know who did compete? 14-year-old Olga Korbut.

And you know who won the meet? Olga Korbut.

Let’s take a look at what happened and watch some of her routines…

Länderkampf BR Deutschland, UdSSR und Kanada 1972 in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Lyudmila Turishcheva (li.) und Olga Korbut (beide UdSSR) Countries struggle BR Germany USSR and Canada 1972 in Schwäbisch Gmünd Lyudmila Turishcheva left and Olga Korbut both USSR

Note: This photo is not from 1972 — not the 1969 dual meet with Japan.
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1969 European Championships MAG

1969: Mikhail Voronin Retains His Title at the Men’s European Championships

On May 24 and 25, 1969, just months after the Olympic Games, the top male gymnasts in Europe gathered in Warsaw for the European Championships. As expected, the Soviet gymnasts dominated the meet.

In 1969, the rules for the European Championships changed. Each country could send three gymnasts instead of two. (Meanwhile, in women’s artistic gymnastics, countries continued to send only two gymnasts to the European Championships.) But the Soviet gymnasts were unable to sweep the all-around podium because Lisitsky had a major break on pommel horse.

Let’s take a look at what happened…

Viktor Klimenko, 1970
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1969 European Championships WAG

1969: Karin Janz Dominates at the Women’s European Championships

Gymnasts from nineteen countries traveled to Landskrona, Sweden to participate in the European Championships on Saturday, May 16, 1969 and Sunday, May 17, 1969.

The stars of the 1968 Olympics — Čáslavská, Petrik, Voronina, Kuchinskaya — did not attend (or had retired), which gave 17-year-old Karin Janz a chance to shine and win four of the five gold medals. 

Datum: 23.05.1969 Copyright: imago/Werner Schulze Karin Janz (DDR) während des Trainings; Quadrat, Geräteturnen 1969, Kunstturnen
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1969 MAG USGF WAG

1969: The USGF World Cup

Before the FIG created its World Cup circuit and before the American Cup came into existence, the U.S. tried to organize an annual World Cup.

On Saturday, April 26, 1969, gymnasts from Canada, Finland, Japan, Yugoslavia, and the United States gathered in Long Beach, California for the World Cup.

Here’s more information about the event.

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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