1962 MAG Perfect 10 WAG World Championships

1962: Czechoslovakia’s Coverage of the World Championships in Prague

In 1962, Prague hosted the World Championships, and, all in all, it was a successful competition for Czechoslovak gymnasts. On the women’s side, the team finished second, and Čáslavská defeated all the Soviet gymnasts except for Latynina in the all-around. She also was the gold medalist on vault and the bronze medalist on floor, while Bosáková was the gold medalist on beam and the silver medalist on bars. On the men’s side, the team took home bronze, and Krbec won gold on vault.

Here’s what the Czechoslovak weekly sports newspaper Stadión reported.  As we’ll see, there were 10s being thrown out by individual judges. (No gymnast received enough 10s to receive a final score of 10.) At the same time, the newspaper noted that there were some “thoughtful mistakes” by the judges, but it did not dive into what those mistakes were.

Even if you don’t read the text below, enjoy the photos. Stadión was a highly visual periodical.

1962 Czechoslovakia East Germany MAG USSR WAG

1962: Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and the Soviet Union Compete before Worlds

No surprise: The Soviet men’s team defeated the Czechoslovak and East German teams, and Yuri Titov, the 1959 European All-Around Champion, won the all-around title

The surprise: Months before the Prague World Championships, the Czech and East German women defeated the Soviet team, and Čáslavská won the all-around. 

Granted, the top Soviet gymnast, Larisa Latynina, was not present. However, Čáslavská’s victory over Astakhova was a harbinger of good things to come. After finishing behind Astakhova at the 1960 Olympics (eighth compared to third) and the 1961 European Championships (tied for third compared to second), Čáslavská finally beat Astakhova during this tri-meet. Then, at the 1962 World Championships, Čáslavská finished second, defeating all the Soviet gymnasts except for Latynina.

Here’s more about the tri-meet, as well as short interviews with several of the Soviet gymnasts. An interesting question came up: Would it be correct to give the judges the optional routines written out before the competition? Not surprisingly, all the athletes said no.

1961 Czechoslovakia MAG WAG

1961: Šťastný and Růžičková Win the Czechoslovak Championships

In 1961, the Czechoslovak Championships were exciting on the women’s side. Coming into the championships, Věra Čáslavská was the clear favorite. At the Rome Olympics in 1960, she finished eighth in the all-around, the highest finish among the Czechoslovak gymnasts. Then, she tied for third at the 1961 European Championships, finishing behind Larisa Latynina and Polina Astakhova. But, despite her promising international results, Čáslavská had never won a senior national all-around title. 

In 1961, it seemed like the title would finally be Čáslavská’s, but she fell off the beam. And Czechoslovak star Eva Bosáková had a major error on bars. Hana Růžičková was able to capitalize on those mistakes and win the Czechoslovak title. (East German gymnast Ute Starke was a foreign guest and technically had the highest all-around title in the competition.)

On the men’s side, the competition was more anti-climactic. Jaroslav Šťastný, the best gymnast on the Czechoslovak team at the 1961 European Championships, took home the title. (Though, Aleksander Rokosa, a Polish guest, technically had the highest all-around total in the competition.)

Here’s a bit more about the competition.


1961: U.S. Gymnasts Compete in the Soviet Union

In January of 1961, a group of Soviet gymnasts headed to the United States for an extensive tour of the country. Months later, U.S. gymnasts headed to the Soviet Union for a dual meet in August of 1961. In a show of friendship, U.S. and Soviet gymnasts alternated routines. Rather than having an entire team compete back-to-back, a Soviet gymnast competed on, say, vault, and then an American gymnast competed on vault.

Speaking of vault, one of the main stories was a three-way tie for the women’s vault title, which produced a rather cramped podium.

L. Latynina, M. Nikolaeva, and B. Maycock
photo: Pravda, August 25, 1961

In this post, you’ll find news coverage and videos of the trip.


1961: Soviet Gymnasts Tour the United States

In 1971, the Soviet gymnasts did a quick tour of the United States, competing at Penn State and Temple University.

10 years prior, in 1961, the Soviet gymnasts did a much more extensive trip. The women competed at West Chester, while the men competed at Penn State. On top of that, there were exhibitions across the country, including in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Urbana, Illinois; and a performance during an NBA game at Madison Square Garden.

The trip was arranged by the Amateur Athletic Union with the sanction of the U.S. State Department.

Below, you’ll find both U.S. footage, as well as Soviet and U.S. news articles. It’s interesting to see how the gymnasts were depicted in different publications and mediums during the Cold War.

Note: In the next post, we’ll look at the U.S. gymnasts’ trip to the Soviet Union for a competition in August 1961.

1958 1960 1962 1964 1966 Books MAG USSR

Shakhlin on His Career from the 1958 Worlds through the 1966 Worlds

In the penultimate chapter of his autobiography, Boris Shakhlin takes us from the 1958 World Championships in Moscow to the 1966 World Championships in Dortmund. Along the way, he gives us a glimpse into his tactics as a competitor — ways that he and his teammates tried to throw their competitors off their game. He also shares little tidbits of information. For example, did you know that Soviet athletes received one cake for each gold medal that they won?

Here’s a translation of the fourth chapter of Shakhlin’s book.

Left-right: Takashi Ono, Yuri Titov, Boris Shakhlin at the 1960 Olympics . 1960. Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano.
1954 1955 1956 Books MAG USSR

Shakhlin on the 1954 Worlds, 1955 European Cup, and the 1956 Olympics

In the third chapter of My Gymnastics, Boris Shakhlin recalls his move to Kyiv, as well as his participation in the 1954 World Championships, the 1955 Cup of Europe, and the 1956 Olympics. Along the way, he tells some interesting stories:

  • How Yuri Titov learned to sing songs while doing pommel horse
  • How Viktor Chukarin survived a concentration camp during World War II
  • How the gymnasts burned their hands on high bar during the 1954 World Championships in the hot Italian sun
  • How he got the nickname the Russian Bear
  • How the all-around gold medal at the 1955 European Cup had a gymnast’s name pre-engraved on it (and it wasn’t his name)
  • How judging started during podium training — not on the first day of competition.
Shakhlin at the 1964 Olympic Games, source: Modern Gymnast

Shakhlin on His Early Years in Gymnastics in “My Gymnastics”

In 1973, Boris Shakhlin published his autobiography titled My Gymnastics. It is a blend of genres: simultaneously an autobiography, an advice column, and a history of Soviet men’s gymnastics.

In the first two chapters of his book, he recalls his start in gymnastics, being orphaned after the death of his parents, his tiny gym with a ceiling so low that they had to bend their knees to do giants, his journey to becoming a Master of Sport, and, of course, sneaking into the gym to train vault without his coaches. (Čáslavská snuck into her gym, too!)

What follows is a translation of the first two chapters of his book…

The cover of Shakhlin’s autobiography
Books Japan MAG

Kato Sawao Was a “Secret Gymnast” When He Started the Sport

Kato Sawao, the 1968 and 1972 Olympic gold medalist in the all-around, didn’t set out to become a gymnast. In fact, he originally wanted to be a baseball player. But his physical education teacher saw potential in him, and that’s how he became a “secret gymnast” who participated in gymnastics without telling his parents. 

In his autobiography, The Path of Beautiful Gymnastics: The Story of Kato Sawao (美しい体操の軌跡加藤沢男物語), Kato recounts his start in gymnastics. Below, I’ve translated and woven together a few chapters of his book to tell that story.

The caption reads: June 1962, around the time of the first year of the Niigata Minami High School gymnastics club. Prefectural tournament inter-high school preliminaries
1971 Hungary MAG WAG

1971: Ilona Békési Wins Every Event at Hungarian Nationals

In 1971, Ilona Békési was a rising star in the European gymnastics community, and at the 1971 Hungarian Masters Championships, she won gold in every event. One year later, she would lead the Hungarian women’s team to a bronze medal at the Olympic Games.

Note: Békési and the Hungarian women often get overlooked in English-language histories of gymnastics. So, this is the first of many posts that will provide a glimpse into Hungarian gymnastics in the early 1970s.

Datum: 31.08.1972 Copyright: imago/Pressefoto Baumann Ilona Bekesi (Ungarn);