European Championships MAG Olympics Perfect 10 WAG World Championships

The Perfect Scores before Nadia Comăneci and Nellie Kim

Before Nadia Comăneci’s and Nellie Kim’s perfect 10s at the 1976 Olympic Games, there was a long line of gymnasts who obtained perfect scores at the Olympic Games, the World Championships, or the European Championships. (Originally, the World Championships were called the International Tournament.)

Some of them even managed perfect totals, meaning that they received the maximum score for their compulsory and optional routines combined.

So, here’s a chronological list of the gymnasts who were “perfect” before Comăneci and Kim.

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

1928-1956: The Events of Women’s Gymnastics

Flying rings? Track and field events like javelin throwing? If you’ve been reading this site, you might be wondering about the evolution of the women’s program at FIG competitions.

So, here’s a quick rundown of the women’s programs at the major FIG competitions. Here we go…

1928 MAG Olympics Perfect 10

1928: A Costly Math Error during the Men’s Competition at the Amsterdam Olympics

The men’s competition at the 1928 Olympics was a close battle between Czechoslovakia and Switzerland. It came down to the very last event, vault, on which Czechoslovak gymnast Šupčík fell and on which Swiss gymnast Eugen Mack received a perfect score for his compulsory routine.

Modern gymnastics fans might be surprised to know that one of the countries performed to music. During its ensemble floor routine, Yugoslavia told the history of its nation through music and movement. (Technically, it wasn’t Yugoslavia at the time but rather the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes or SHS for short.)

Of course, there was a fair share of judging drama. It’s gymnastics.

Unfortunately, there were some organizational problems, too. Due to a mathematical error, the wrong person received the bronze medal on rings.

Swiss gymnast Georges Miez (1904-1999) at the 1928 Summer Olympics, held at the Olympisch Stadion (Olympic Stadium) in Amsterdam, Netherlands, August 1928. Miez won gold in the Men’s artistic individual all-around, Men’s artistic team all-around, Men’s horizontal bar, and won silver in the Men’s pommel horse. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
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.

1928 Olympics WAG

1928: Women Compete in Gymnastics at the Olympics for the First Time

Whereas men competed in gymnastics at the very first Olympic Games in 1896, women had to wait until the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, the Official Report provides little commentary on the women’s competition — save for the results, the names of the athletes, and a photo of the French team climbing the double ropes.

But there were newspaper accounts of the events.

In this post, we’ll dive a bit deeper and look at two perspectives: that of the Dutch and that of the French. (The former was written for a general audience, while the latter was written for the gymnastics nerds.)

As we’ll see, there were some glaring issues that needed to be addressed in women’s gymnastics.

1928 Olympics WAG

1928: Rules for the First Women’s Gymnastics Competition at the Olympic Games

In 1928, women finally competed in gymnastics at the Olympic Games. Previously, they had been allowed to perform exhibitions, but they weren’t part of the competitive program.

The rules for the women’s competition at the 1928 Olympic Games were vague at best. After reading this post, you’ll probably have more questions than answers.

So, here are the rules…

1925 Olympics

1925: Gymnastics at the First Workers’ Olympiad

Over the years, there have been many versions of the Olympic Games. One version was the International Workers’ Olympiads, which positioned itself in opposition to the “bourgeois” Olympics.

(For a list of Olympics that happened before the 1896 Olympics in Athens, check out this post.)

As I stated in my previous post, the International Workers’ Olympiads gave Swiss women the opportunity to compete internationally at a time when the FIG didn’t allow women to compete. (At the Olympic level, women first competed in gymnastics at the 1928 Olympics.)

So, let’s take a look at what happened at the First International Workers’ Olympiads in 1925.

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.

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.

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.