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1972 MAG Olympics USSR

1972: Sovetsky Sport’s Coverage of the Men’s Event Finals

In 1972, there were no Soviet men’s artistic gymnasts on the all-around podium. Afterward, the Soviet press noted that the fight was not over. The Soviet gymnasts could still take home gold during the event finals, and indeed, they did. Nikolai Andrianov and Viktor Klimenko became Olympic champions on floor and pommel horse, respectively.

Here’s what the main Soviet sports newspaper wrote about the men’s artistic event finals. Though the Soviet and Japanese gymnasts were rivals, the press was quite complimentary towards the Japanese gymnasts, especially Tsukahara’s high bar routine.

MUNICH, WEST GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 01: Viktor Klimenko of the Soviet Union competes in the Pommel Horse of the Artistic Gymnastics Men’s Apparatus final during the Munich Olympic Games at the Sporthalle on September 1, 1972 in Munich, West Germany. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
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1972 MAG Olympics

1972: The Men’s Event Finals at the Munich Olympics

On September 1, 1972, the gymnastics portion of the Olympic Games ended with the men’s event finals. It was largely a competition between the Japanese and Soviet gymnasts. Only three gymnasts made the finals from other countries: Köste of East Germany, W. Kubica of Poland, and Rohner of Switzerland.

The Munich Olympic Games were the first time that there was an all-around final. So, instead of competing for three days, the top gymnasts had to compete for four days. Some gymnasts like Kato qualified for every final, meaning they performed a total of 24 routines.

Let’s take a look at what happened.

Akinori Nakayama, Rings, Munich (Photo by Horstmüller/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
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1972 MAG Olympics USSR

1972: Sovetsky Sport’s Coverage of the Men’s All-Around in Munich

Soviet gymnasts first competed at the Olympics in 1952, and from 1952 through 1968, there was always a Soviet gymnast on the men’s all-around podium at the Olympics. Then, 1972 happened, and there were no Soviet all-around medalists in men’s artistic gymnastics.

Here’s what Sovetsky Sport, the primary sports newspaper of the Soviet Union, wrote.

Copyright: imago/Werner Schulze, Nikolai Andrianov (UdSSR)
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1972 MAG Olympics

1972: The Men’s All-Around Final at the Munich Olympics

Before the Olympics started, Kato Sawao was the favorite for the all-around title.

The big favorite for the all-around victory is Kato Sawao, who can probably only beat himself by always daring to exaggerate to the utmost. That would be the hour for world champion Kenmotsu, the “eternal” runner-up, Nakayama, or the latest discovery, Kasamatsu, but maybe also for the 20-year-old Russian Nikolai Andrianov or the North Korean Li Song Sob, about whom wonderful things are said.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Number 393, 24 August 1972

Großer Favorit auf den Zwölfkampfsieg ist Sawao Kato, der wohl nur sich selber schlagen kann, indem er stets das Aeußerste wagend einmal übertreibt. Das wäre dann die Stunde für Weltmeister Kenmotsu, den «ewigen» Zweiten Nakayama oder die neueste Entdeckung, Kasamatsu, vielleicht aber auch für den 20jährigen Russen Nikolai Andrianow oder den Nordkoreaner Ri Son Sep, von denen man sich Wunderdinge erzählt.

After compulsories in Munich, Endo Yukio, the Japanese head coach, thought that four gymnasts had a chance to win:

“We’ll still win all the gold medals. However, my tip for the all-around victory has become a bit more comprehensive: Kenmotsu, Kato, Kasamatsu or Andrianov.” He no longer named arguably the best specialist of past world championships and the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City — Nakayama — although the latter did well on his feared equipment, the pommel horse, with a score of 9.30.

Deutsches Sportecho, August 29, 1972

„Wir gewinnen alle acht Goldmedaillen!” Nach der Absolvierung der Pflicht glaubten viele, daß Endo sich etwas bremsen würde. Nichts dessen. „Wir gewinnen trotzdem alle Goldmedaillen. Mein Tip für den Mehrkampfsieg ist allerdings etwas umfassender geworden: Kenmotsu, Kato, Kasamatsu oder Andrianow.“ Er nannte nicht mehr den. wohl besten Gerätespezialisten vergangener Welttitelkämpfe und der Olympischen Spiele von 1968 in Mexiko-Stadt, nicht Nakayama, obwohl dieser an seinem Angstgerät, dem Seitpferd, mit 9,30 gut über die Runden kam.

In the end, Kato was able to defend his all-around title from Mexico City, but it wasn’t an easy victory. The all-around final on August 30, 1972, was a nail-biter. Having qualified first, Kato wouldn’t regain the lead until the final routine. (Reminder: Kato missed the 1970 World Championships due to an Achilles tear.)

Let’s dive in…

Kato Sawao, Copyright: imago/Sven Simon Sawao Kato (Japan)
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1972 MAG Olympics USSR

1972: Sovetsky Sport’s Coverage of the Soviet Men’s Fourth-Straight Silver

What did the Soviet press think about the Soviet men’s team winning silver for the fourth-straight Olympics?

Here’s what Sovetsky Sport, the primary sports newspaper of the Soviet Union, wrote.

Olympische Spiele München 1972. Turnen: Siegerehrung Mannschaftsmehrkampf: Japan Gold, UdSSR Silber und DDR Bronze
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1972 MAG Olympics

1972: The Men’s Optionals at the Munich Olympics (Competition 1b)

On Tuesday, August 29, the men’s artistic gymnasts competed in the optionals portion of the competition. (You can read about the compulsories here.) Coming into the finals, Japan had a 2.85 lead over the Soviet Union, and reigning Olympic all-around champion Sawao Kato had a 0.05 lead over Nikolai Andrianov.

Tsukahara once again thrilled the audience with his originality. At the 1970 World Championships, it was his vault that captivated the audience. At the 1972 Olympics, it was his “moon salto” off high bar — an element for the Space Age.

Let’s take a look at what happened during the final day of the team competition.

Tsukahara’s full-twisting double back. Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images.
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1972 MAG Olympics USSR WAG

1972: Sovetsky Sport’s Coverage of the Compulsories in Munich

After the compulsory program, Sovetsky Sport, the main sports newspaper of the USSR, printed its recap of the competition. Not surprisingly, the writer was complimentary toward the entire Soviet women’s artistic gymnastics team, adding delightful lines like, “For O. Korbut, with her unique tricks on uneven bars, performing the compulsories is as easy as shelling peas.” Of course, there were some rough spots on beam, but as the writer points out, all the teams struggled with beam. 

As for the Soviet men, that was a different story. The newspaper only had good things to say about Andrianov and pointed out that Alexander Maleeev and Vladimir Shchukin did not have enough experience to be strong contributors to the team score.

Below, you can find a translation of Sovetsky Sport’s coverage.

Copyright: imago/Werner Schulze Nikolai Andrianov (UdSSR) – Barren
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1972 MAG Olympics

1972: The Men’s Compulsories at the Munich Olympics (Competition 1a)

On Sunday, August 27, the men’s artistic gymnasts gathered in the Olympic Sports Hall for what could be a long haul.

This was the first Olympic Games with a separate all-around final. As a result, the top gymnasts faced four days of competition (compulsories, optionals, all-around finals, and event finals). Previously, they had had only three days of competition (compulsories, optionals, and event finals).

From the start, it looked like the status quo would be upheld: Japan with team gold, the Soviet Union with team silver, and East Germany with team bronze. (Meanwhile, the U.S. gymnasts had a disastrous compulsory round.)

Let’s take a look at what happened…

Akonori Nakayama, Photo by POOL / AFP via Getty Images
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1972 MAG Olympics WAG

1972: Preview of the Gymnastics Competition at the Munich Olympics

Heading into the gymnastics competition at the 1972 Olympics, which teams were the favorites? Which individuals were expected to win the all-around?

Here’s what was written in newspapers across the globe.

Datum: 01.09.1972 Copyright: imago/Colorsport Gymnastics, Ludmilla Tourishcheva. Sports Hall, Olympic Park, Munich, West Germany.
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1972 Czechoslovakia MAG WAG

1972: The Results from Czechoslovakia’s National Championships

After World War II, Czechoslovakia was one of the powerhouses in women’s gymnastics. But in the lead-up to the Munich Olympics, they had dropped in the rankings. At the 1966 World Championships, they finished first. At the 1968 Olympics, they finished second. Then, at the 1970 World Championships, they were third. Nevertheless, Czechoslovakia was one of the favorites for bronze in Munich.

On the men’s side, the team had finished 4th at both the 1966 World Championships and the 1968 Olympic Games. But they dropped to 9th at the 1970 World Championships, which is where they finished in Munich. (Based on their scores at their national championships, a medal seemed out of the question.)

Here are the results for the 1972 Czechoslovak National Championships.

Zdena Dorňáková, Stadión, No. 38, Sept. 18, 1973