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1928 MAG Olympics

1928: The Rules for Men’s Gymnastics at the Olympic Games

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.

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1950 MAG Perfect 10 World Championships

1950: A Perfect 10 in the Men’s Competition at the World Championships

In 1950, Hans Eugster scored a perfect 10 on the parallel bars at the World Championships. It was the first 10 under the very first men’s Code of Points (1949)

The competition wasn’t without its judging controversies that spilled over into the pages of the French and Swiss newspapers.

Kunstturn-WM in Basel 1950: Barren-Sieger Hans Eugster (Photo by RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
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1950 MAG WAG World Championships

1950: A Preview of the World Championships in Basel

Competition previews are a tried and true genre of gymnastics sports writing. They give you a snapshot of who are the favorites, how certain countries’ gymnasts are perceived, and what the supposed expectations of the judges are. Plus, they are fun to read after the competition and see how much the author got right and wrong.

Let’s take a look at the preview for the 1950 World Championships in Basel, Switzerland. It was written by Jean A. Latte and was printed in the French Moroccan newspaper La Vigie Marocaine on July 7, 1950.

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1903 MAG World Championships

1903: Men’s Gymnastics at the First World Championships

I’ve covered the first Olympic Games in Athens. Now, it’s time to discuss the first World Championships, which were held in Antwerp.

First things first, the competition wasn’t called a world championship at the time. It was referred to as the International Gymnastics Tournament (“Tournoi International de Gymnastique” in French or “Internationale Turntornooi” in Dutch). The competition was held in conjunction with the Belgian Federal Festival, August 14-18, 1903.

The French team in La Vie au grand air, August 21, 1903; De Jaegher is the one on the high bar.

Note: I’ll refer to an article written by Pierre Hentgès, Sr. in this post. If you don’t know who he is, he was a Luxembourgish gymnast who competed at the 1912 Olympics. He later became the President of the Men’s Technical Committee of the FIG in 1954.

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1896 19th Century MAG Olympics

1896: Gymnastics at the Olympic Games

Nowadays, we see the Olympic Games as the pinnacle of sports, and we have romanticized the first modern Olympics in Athens.

But, to understand the gymnastics competition at the 1896 Olympic Games, we need to set aside those notions.

By and large, the gymnastics community didn’t see the first Olympic Games as a glorious revival of an ancient tradition. In fact, most of the European gymnastics federations turned down their invitations.

Weingärtner
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1948 MAG Olympics

1948: The Emergence of the Soviet Union

In 1948, the Soviet Union was invited to the Olympics, but they chose not to send any athletes. That same year, the Soviet Union attempted to join the FIG, and it was quite the fiasco.

In this post, we’ll take a look at a news report from the 1948 FIG Congress. In addition, we’ll look at a Swiss report on the Soviet appearance at the 1948 Sokol Fest, as well as what was being written about gymnastics in the Soviet press at the time.

Let’s jump in…

Helsinki. Finland. The 15th Summer Olympics. Soviet gymnast Viktor Chukarin.

Note: The Soviet Union had participated in international gymnastics competitions before their attempt to join the FIG in 1948, but those competitions were not FIG events. For example, they participated in the 1937 Workers’ Summer Olympiad in Antwerp, where the Soviet teams finished first.

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1948 MAG Olympics

1948: The Men’s Gymnastics Competition at the London Olympics

The men’s gymnastics competition at the 1948 Olympics was a bit chaotic, but by all accounts, it was an exciting competition between the Swiss and the Finnish teams. (Though, there were a fair amount of complaints about the judging.)

At the time of this writing, I have not found any extant competition footage. But the newspaper accounts paint a fairly clear picture of the competition and its controversies.

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1948 MAG Olympics

1948: The Men’s Rules and Apparatus Norms for the London Olympics

In 1948, the men were one year away from having their very first Code of Points. Surprisingly, the technical committee didn’t simply copy and paste the rules for the 1948 Olympics into the 1949 Code of Points. The two documents look surprisingly different.

Let’s take a look at the rules that were in place for the London Olympics.

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1968 MAG Olympics

1968: The Men’s Event Finals in Mexico City

In 1968, the men’s event finals took place on Saturday, October 26, the very last day of competition at the Olympic Games.

Let’s take a look at what happened…

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 26: (L to R) Silver medalist Noriaki Nakayama, gold medalist Sawao Kato and bronze medalist Takeshi Kato of Japan celebrates on the podium at the medal ceremony for the Artistic Gymnastics Men’s Floor apparatus final during the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games at the National Auditorium on October 26, 1968 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
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1968 MAG Olympics

1968: The Men’s Optionals Competition in Mexico City

The Swiss newspaper L’Express summarized it best:

Until the last moment, it was impossible to predict who would win the individual all-around victory. However, since the start of the evening, it was certain that the Japanese would win the team competition.

Jusqu’au dernier moment, il était impossible de prédire à qui irait la victoire individuelle. Par contre, depuis le début de la soirée, il était certain que les Japonais l’emporteraient par équipes.

L’Express, Saturday, October 26, 1968

Let’s take a look at what happened.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 24: Sawao Kato of Japan competes in the Floor of the Artistic Gymnastics Men’s Individual All-Around final during the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games at the National Auditorium on October 24, 1968 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)