1973 MAG Universiade

1973: The Men’s Competition at the University Games

Japan’s winning streak at the University Games ended in 1973. From 1961 until 1970, they won every all-around title in men’s gymnastics, and when team awards were added to the gymnastics competition in 1963, they won four consecutive Universiade team titles.

But in Moscow in 1973, the Soviet Union won the Universiade team title and swept the all-around podium. In fact, Japan went home without a single gold medal — not even in the event finals. (Event finals and the all-around final were new to the Universiade in 1973.) As you’ll see below, the Japanese delegation thought that there was some suspicious judging at play.

Setting aside the question of judging for a moment, there was a lot of exciting gymnastics in 1973.

Nishikii performed an Arabian 1¾ to a roll-out. (Effing had done one earlier in the year at the 1973 European Championships.)

Cuervo did his eponymous vault (a handspring with a ½ twist and a back tuck out.)

And Safronov (USSR) did a Kasamatsu on vault before Kasamatsu did it at the 1974 World Championships. (So, should we start referring to those vaults as Safronovs? 🙃)

Here’s a rundown of what happened during the team competition, the all-around competition, and the event finals.

The Soviet men’s team
Source: Sovetsky Sport, no. 194, 1973
1966 Compulsories MAG World Championships

1966: The Men’s Compulsories for the World Championships in Dortmund

If you’re reading this website, you probably have an affinity for compulsory routines. Heck, if you’re like me, you might even want to learn these old routines.

Well, I have good news for you: I have the official text, stick figures, and deductions for the men’s compulsories at the 1966 World Championships in Dortmund.

And there’s an added bonus: You can find an excerpt from the technical regulations in the PDF below. (They are in French and German.)

An interesting tidbit: Both the men’s and women’s compulsories had similar vaults with sideways landings. That had to feel great on the knees. (You can find the women’s compulsories here.)

1971 Apparatus Norms Code of Points FIG Bulletin MAG

1971: The FIG President’s Thoughts on Men’s Optional Exercises

In a 1971 bulletin, Arthur Gander, who was president of the FIG at the time, published a long series of remarks about the state of optional exercises in men’s gymnastics. Gander’s article touches upon some of the challenges in both men’s and women’s gymnastics that persist to this day.

For example, monotony. Even in the era of risk, originality, and virtuosity, there were certain skills and combinations that had almost become compulsory. (Granted, risk, originality, and virtuosity were still in their infancy at that point.)

Side saltos. Gymnastics fans love to hate on side saltos on beam, and guess what! Arthur Gander didn’t like them, either, on men’s floor!

Value assignments. What constitutes an A, B, or C part? Should such-and-such skill really be a C? Yup, the FIG was wrestling with those questions back in the day, as well.

There’s also the question of nostalgia. As you read Gander’s remarks, you might find yourself wondering, Does Mr. Gander want to see these skills because they would add variety or because they are representative of a different era of gymnastics? And how often does nostalgia for a past era color our view of gymnastics today?

Finally, the fear of the “feminization” of men’s gymnastics. Though Gander believed that men could learn a thing or two from women’s uneven bars, he feared that men’s floor exercise could become too feminine, especially if floor music were included. It’s a question that has been raised as gymnasts like Heath Thorpe (AUS) incorporate more leaps into their floor routines.

Another interesting tidbit: Gander mentions that the IOC was not pleased with men’s vault in 1968, questioning whether the event was worthy of an Olympic medal.

Below, you’ll find my translation of Gander’s remarks. (The FIG provided its own English translation in its bulletin, but the translation was quite rough and difficult to follow.)

1973 Interviews & Profiles MAG USSR

1973: A Profile of Viktor Klimenko – “Catching up and Overtaking”

In July of 1973, after Viktor Klimenko won his second European all-around title, Stadión, a weekly Czechoslovak sports magazine, published a profile on him. It offers details about his early years in the sport, his rivalries within the Soviet team, his coaching changes, his recovery from an Achilles tear that occurred during the 1971 European Championships, and more.


Note: You can read a much shorter profile of the Klimenko brothers from 1972 here.

1973 European Championships MAG

1973: Klimenko Wins the All-Around at the European Championships

At the 1971 European Championships, Viktor Klimenko won the all-around. Then, while warming up for the event finals on floor, he tore his Achilles tendon. He managed to recover in time to win gold on pommel horse, silver on vault, and a silver with the Soviet team in Munich. One year later, in 1973, Klimenko once again found himself on top of the all-around podium at the European Championships in Grenoble, France.

But it was his teammate Nikolai Andrianov who pushed the sport’s difficulty level forward by debuting new elements: a double pike on floor as well as a full-twisting double back off rings. (Reminder: Tsukahara had competed a full-twisting double back off high bar in 1972, and one year later, Andrianov was doing the same dismount off rings.)

Also of note: Bernd Effing performed an Arabian 1 ¾ on floor in Grenoble, helping to usher in decades of roll-out skills (and concussions). And Eberhard Gienger added his own spin to Tsukahara’s full-twisting double back off high bar by performing the twist on the first flip.

While the gymnastics was exciting at the men’s European Championships, the organization of the competition left much to be desired. For example, they played the wrong national anthem for Eberhard Gienger. It happened during a historic medal ceremony where Gienger from West Germany and Klaus Köste from East Germany stood side by side on the podium.

Here’s a bit more about the 1973 European Championships in Grenoble.

Eberhard Gienger (BR Deutschland) mit einem Skelett Eberhard Gienger BR Germany with a Skeleton

Note: I was looking for photos of the historic medal ceremony, but I couldn’t locate any. This is what I found instead.
1973 MAG Riga International WAG

1973: Schegolkova and Andrianov Win the Riga International

The Riga International was one of the first major international competitions in 1973. Olympic gold medalists Nikolai Andrianov, Klaus Köste, and Elvira Saadi competed, but it wasn’t a well-attended event:

The attendance was very light for both men’s and women’s events with some increase during the finals.

Gymnast, June/July 1973

Riga was a place where gymnasts often debuted new skills. In 1972, Tsukahara did his full-twisting double back off high bar, and Gehrke became one of the first women to do a Tsukahara on vault. In 1973, Andrianov did one of the first double pikes on floor.

Historical context: At the 1962 World Championships, Hristov of Bulgaria attempted one of the first double backs at a major international competition. (He face-planted it.) Eleven years later, the world finally saw one of the first double pikes.

Source: Padomju Jaunatne, Nr. 70, April 10, 1973
1970 MAG Universiade

1970: The Men’s Competition at the University Games

In 1970, the Japanese men won the team competition for the fourth consecutive time and the individual all-around for the fifth consecutive time at the University Games. (There wasn’t a team competition at the 1961 Universiade.)

At the University Games in Turin, one could see that the 1968 Code‘s emphasis on risk, originality, and virtuosity was starting to pay off, as gymnasts were seeking to perform more difficult and original skills. In 1969, there was talk of ditching men’s vault altogether because it had become stale. Then, at the 1970 Universiade, Okamura performed a handspring with a front salto on vault. (A few weeks later, Tsukahara performed his eponymous vault at the World Championships.) On high bar, Straumann did a double tuck over the bar, laying the groundwork for decades of creative dismounts and Kovacs-style releases.

What follows are the results, as well as commentary about the competition.

Source: Universiade Torino ’70: Giochi mondiali della FISU
1967 MAG Universiade

1967: The Men’s Competition at the University Games

At the 1967 University Games, the Japanese men were able to repeat the results of the 1963 University Games, where they won every medal possible — the team gold medal and all three all-around medals. But there was one difference in 1967: the Eastern bloc countries boycotted the 1967 University Games in support of North Korea:

The Tokyo 1967 Summer Universiade certainly had its challenges even before the competition started, with the Eastern bloc nations such as the Soviet Union, East Germany, North Korea, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, and Cuba boycotting the Games because of the political dynamics at the time. The first to boycott was North Korea, who demanded that it be referred to as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea during the Universiade, a request that was denied. The countries from the East then rallied around their communist ally and also pulled out.

Source:  Spotlight: Remembering the Tokyo 1967 Summer Universiade

Reminder: At other competitions, there was controversy over referring to the German Democratic Republic as East Germany.

In other words, Japan’s biggest opponent, the Soviet Union, was not present. Nevertheless, the competition was important partly because it gave the world a glimpse at Kato Sawao, who would go on to win the all-around at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics.

What follows are the results and a translation of Japan’s Official Report on the competition.

1965 MAG Universiade

1965: The Men’s Competition at the University Games

At the 1963 University Games, Japan swept the podiums, winning the team title in addition to the gold, silver, and bronze in the all-around. Two years later, in Budapest, Japan was not able to dominate the field. 

Japan handily won the team title in 1965, and Nakayama Akinori took gold in the all-around. (He would go on to win 10 Olympic medals and 12 World Championship medals.) Miroslav Cerar, the 1961 and 1963 European all-around champion and reigning Olympic champion on pommel horse, won the silver in the all-around. Makoto Sakamoto, a Japanese-American gymnast who swept all seven titles at the 1965 AAU Championships, won bronze.

Nakayama (top right); Cerar (bottom right). Source: Képes Sport, August 24, 1965
1963 MAG Universiade WAG

1963: The Men’s and Women’s Competitions at the University Games

The results of the gymnastics competition at the 1963 University Games in Porto Alegre, Brazil, were quite unexpected. 

At the 1962 World Championships, Yuri Titov and Larisa Latynina won the all-around titles. One year later, at the Universiade in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Titov finished off the podium, and the Japanese men swept the top three places in the all-around. On the women’s side, Latynina, who had won every World and Olympic all-around title since 1956, had to share first place with Hungary’s Katalin Makray. On top of that, Hungary beat the Soviet Union, which had won team gold at every World Championships or Olympic Games since 1952.

Granted, there were some fundamental differences between the University Games and other major competitions. No compulsory routines, for example. Only four gymnasts per team. No event finals. Nevertheless, the results were surprising.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to track down information about this competition. So, this post relies on the book Unversíade 1963: História e resultados dos Jogos Mundiais Universitários de Porto Alegre by Rodrigo Koch.

Photo: Katalin Makray, Népszava, Sept. 4, 1963