1972 Japan MAG Training WAG

1972: Japan’s Olympic Trials Results and Goals for Munich

Who would make Japan’s men’s team for the Munich Olympics? The gymnastics world couldn’t wait to find out. As a Hungarian newspaper put it, “It is easier to win a gold medal than to get onto the Japanese national team.”

In the end, there were three members of the 1970 World Championship team (Nakayama, Tsukahara, and Kenmotsu), the 1968 Olympic All-Around Champion (Kato), the 1970 University Games All-Around Champion (Okamura), and Kasamatsu, who tied for fourth at the 1972 Riga International and won one of Japan’s qualifying competitions for Munich. 

On the women’s side, the team was aiming for a bronze medal after its disappointing fourth-place finish in Mexico City.

What follows is a translation of the teams’ goals and the results from the selection competitions. This post also includes an article from Hungary on the men’s team selection.

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)
1968 Japan MAG WAG

1968: Japan’s Olympic Trials

At the 1968 Olympics, many outside Japan were surprised when Kato Sawao won. But within Japan, it was less of a surprise. Heading into the Olympics, Sasano Toshihiko said as much in the press:

Toshihiko Sasano, manager of the Japanese gymnastic team, said both men and women gymnasts are in best condition, particularly Yukio Endo and Sawao Kato.

The Yomiuri, Oct. 13, 1968

That’s because, as we’ll see below, Kato Sawao won Japan’s Olympic Trials, which were held months ahead of time — just as they are today.

As for the women’s team, they had finished third at the 1966 World Championships, and they had expectations for a team medal in Mexico City.

But in the two years between the Worlds and Olympics, there had been a changing of the guard. For example, Ikeda Keiko, who had finished third in the all-around at the World Championships in Dortmund, was no longer one of the top gymnasts in 1968.

Here are more details on Japan’s Olympic Trials for the Mexico City Olympics.

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)
1972 Interviews & Profiles MAG USSR

1972: A Profile of the Klimenko Brothers

In 1971, Viktor Klimenko won the all-around at the European Championships, but he tore his Achilles tendon during warmups the next day. Mikhail Klimenko, his brother, was his coach, and he knew firsthand what it was like to go through a significant injury. While Mikhail would later become known for being Elena Mukhina’s coach, he once was remembered as a junior national champion, who had to quit due to injury. 

What follows is a 1972 profile of the two brothers from Nedelia.

Viktor Klimenko, 1970

1972: Korbut and Andrianov Win the USSR Cup

Months earlier, in April, Ludmilla Tourischeva and Nikolai Andrianov won the 1972 Soviet Championships — both with errors. At the 1972 Soviet Cup, Tourischeva had another mistake, and this time, Olga Korbut was able to capitalize on it and win the competition. As for Andrianov, he further cemented his position as the top Soviet gymnast heading into the Olympics.

Below, you’ll find the results, a Soviet video montage, as well as newspaper articles about the competition. I’ve translated full articles so that you can have the experience of a gymnastics fan who was trying to piece together what happened in the pages of the newspaper Izvestiia.

November 1-4, 1972. Grodno, Byelorussian SSR, USSR. Three times Olympic Champion in artistic gymnastics Olga Korbut. The exact date of the photograph is unknown. Vitaly Sozinov/TASS
1972 Hungary Interviews & Profiles MAG

1972: A Profile of Teenage Zoltán Magyar

After the 1972 Olympics, the Hungarian sports newspaper Népsport ran a profile of Zoltán Magyar. It portrays the teenager as an angsty and absent-minded gymnast who sometimes forgets to show up for practice. But it recognizes that Magyar had the potential to become one of the best pommel workers in the world.

Note: For those who don’t know much about pommel horse, Magyar was known for his ability to travel down the pommel horse while touching the saddle of the horse (the leather part between the pommels). It’s challenging to use this part of the horse because you have to lift your legs above the pommel in the front and above the pommel in the back.

So, with no further ado, here’s the profile on Magyar.

Népsport, November 30, 1972
1972 Hungary MAG WAG

1972: Békési and Molnár Win the Hungarian Masters Championships

At the 1972 Hungarian Masters Championships, Ilona Békési won her second straight all-around title, and Imre Molnár won his third straight title. Zoltán Magyar, who would later become known as the greatest pommel horse worker of the 1970s, had a rough competition, especially on pommel horse.

In this post, you’ll find the results from the championships, as well as the newspaper articles covering the men’s and women’s all-around competitions. As far as I know, there aren’t videos of the competition online, so you’ll have the experience of a gymnastics fan who had to read about what happened in the newspapers.

Molnár (left) and Békési (upper right), Képes Sport, June 13, 1972
1972 East Germany MAG WAG

1972: Janz and Köste Win the All-Around at the East German Championships

Four months before the Olympic Games, East Germany held its national championships. As expected, Karin Janz and Klaus Köste won the all-around titles. Behind them, you could see the Olympic team starting to take shape.

Let’s take a look at the results and reports on the 1972 East German Championships…

Klaus Köste DDR-Mehrkampfmeister im Turnen. Photographer: Liebers Copyright: ADN-ZB

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L0420-0024 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons
1972 Interviews & Profiles MAG USSR

1972: An Interview with Edvard Mikaelian, Armenian Gymnast and Fan of Jimi Hendrix

Edvard Mikaelian was part of the Soviet teams that finished second at the 1972 Olympics and 1974 World Championships. In the lead-up to the Munich Olympics, he finished sixth at the USSR Championships and fourth at the USSR Cup. At the Olympics, he tied for 20th in the all-around.

The following interview, printed in the Czechoslovak weekly Stadión, fleshes out the character of one of the lesser-known members of the Soviet men’s team. It portrays him as a trendy, fashionable citizen of the world, who loved both ballet and American rock and roll, including the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and, of all things, the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

Stadión, May 9, 1972

Note: This profile includes an anecdote that would no longer be socially acceptable to print today.

1972 MAG Riga International WAG

1972: Korbut and Andrianov Win the Riga International

The Riga International was one of the big competitions early in the 1972 competitive season. It allowed gymnasts to try out the compulsory routines in an international setting and test new elements.

On the women’s side, Korbut swept all five gold medals while performing many of the skills that would captivate the world in Munich. (Unfortunately, her struggles on bars continued.) Plus, Bogdanova (URS) performed one of the first double fulls off beam, while Gehrke (GDR) performed one of the first Tsukahara vaults in women’s artistic gymnastics. 

On the men’s side, Tsukahara unveiled a new dismount off high bar: a full-twisting double back. And Zoltán Magyar performed his famous travel on pommel horse.

Here’s what else happened at the 1972 Riga International…

A medal from the Riga International
1972 Interviews & Profiles MAG USSR WAG

1972: Profiles of Tourischeva and Andrianov after the USSR Championships

The USSR Championships were the first major domestic challenge for the Soviet gymnasts on the road to Munich, and they were full of surprises. 

Nikolai Andrianov, who was third at the 1971 European Championships, won the all-around, defeating both Voronin and Klimenko. But on the second day of competition, which didn’t count toward his all-around total, he found himself sitting on the parallel bars.

And Ludmilla Tourischeva finally won the all-around title at the USSR Championships. Yes, she had won both the European and World all-around titles before she won the USSR Championships. (She had won the USSR Cup in 1969 and 1971.) She, too, had a major error during the competition.

Afterward, the Soviet media produced video profiles of both champions. You can find the videos, transcripts, and translations below.