In May of 1973, many of China’s top gymnasts traveled to the United States for a tour and a competition at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Meanwhile, back in China, the country held its national championships. On the men’s side, Yu Liefeng won the all-around, and Xu Guoning and Cheng Chunxia tied for first place on the women’s side.
Below, you can find an article on the competition.
In May of 1973, the Chinese gymnastics team traveled to New York City, where they competed against U.S. gymnasts at Madison Square Garden.
This was a big deal. I repeat: A big deal.
From a gymnastics perspective, the visit was part of China’s re-emergence in the international gymnastics scene. In 1964, China withdrew from the FIG due to the organization’s two China policy, and during the Great Cultural Revolution, Chinese gymnasts all but disappeared from international competitions. Then, in the early 1970s, Chinese gymnasts began to compete in smaller competitions. For example, they traveled to Romania in 1972.
But there was something different about this trip in 1973. Whereas Romania was a communist country, the United States was the symbol of capitalism. So, from a political perspective, the visit signaled the further thawing of U.S-Chinese relations and was further evidence of a pronounced shift in China’s foreign policy. (Previously, U.S. ping pong players had traveled to Beijing in April of 1971, and President Richard Nixon had visited China in February of 1972. More on that in the appendix.)
What follows are the results, as well as newspaper accounts from China and the U.S.
Note: If you’ve watched Gymnastics’ Greatest Stars, this is the competition where the Chinese pianist improvised after Nancy Thies’s tape broke.
In January of 1973, shortly after the 1972 Chunichi Cup, Stadión, a Czechoslovak weekly, ran a profile of Karin Janz. In addition to a summary of her career, it included interviews with Janz, her father, and her coaches. Interestingly, it suggested that Janz intended to continue competing through the 1976 Olympics, which, in the end, she did not do. As the article noted, she was busy with her medical studies.
For her father, this was Janz’s greatest achievement: “It meant more to me than all her medals when she enrolled in medical school because she stayed true to her childhood dream.”
From 1936 until 1968, Czechoslovak women’s artistic gymnasts always won at least one medal at the Olympics. In 1972, that streak ended. It led to Czechoslovakia reorganizing its training, creating a more centralized training system with Vít Matlocha at the helm. The coaches’ goal: find a way to recreate Korbut’s magic in Czechoslovakia.
Reminder: Jaroslava Matlochová, who was Čáslavská’s coach at the end of her career, had left to coach in Italy. After Munich, she returned to Czechoslovakia to lead the women’s program with her husband.