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The Hungarian delegation’s reaction to the 1970 World Championships is fascinating. As you’ll see in the articles below, they envied the organization and financial resources of the top countries, and after a sixth-place finish for the women and an eleventh-place finish for the men in Ljubljana, they certainly would not have predicted the future: a team bronze medal in women’s gymnastics at the 1972 Olympic Games.
In addition, the second article raises an astute question: Had the era of long careers in women’s gymnastics ended? It’s a question that would re-emerge in several articles during this time period.
What follows is a translation of two articles printed in Békés Megyei Népújság on January 6 and 7, 1971. They were written by József Lukács, who would go on to become the Hungarian women’s head coach from 1983 to 1989.
At the 1970 World Championships, the Romanian women’s team took 5th place while the men’s team took 8th. Afterward, Constantin Macovei, a reporter for the Romanian sports periodical Sportul, wrote a series of reflections. He criticized the unfair judging in Ljubljana and praised the women’s program for being on track, particularly Ceampelea and Ioan.
As for the men’s program, Macovei provided several concrete suggestions, including scheduling matches that will push the gymnasts rather than give them a guaranteed victory. In addition, he looked forward to the performances of upcoming gymnasts like Adrian Stoica, who would one day become the President of the Men’s Technical Committee at the FIG.
The 1970 World Championships are often overshadowed by Čáslavská and Kuchinskaya’s rivalry in 1968 and by Korbut’s pyrotechnics in 1972. But the competition in Ljubljana was exciting in its own right.
First, there was the changing of the guard. Czechoslovakia was once the Soviet Union’s biggest rival. But East Germany assumed that position in 1970, and at one point in the competition, it seemed like East Germany might win team gold.
Second, the all-around competition was thrilling. The title was Karin Janz’s to lose, and well, unfortunately, she ended up losing it during the final rotation.
Let’s take a look at what happened…
The 1970 World Championships were a pivotal moment in the history of gymnastics. Men’s vault was considered boring in the late 1960s. But that changed at the 1970 World Championships when Tsukahara unveiled his namesake vault. The crowd loved it. In fact, during the optionals portion of the World Championships, the crowd protested Tsukahara’s 9.75.
Note: If you want to be extremely pretentious, you can call a “Tsukahara” a “Tivoli Vault.” Reportedly, that’s what Tsukahara was going to name the vault.
In addition to the debut of the Tsukahara vault, Kenmotsu, the 1970 World All-Around Champion, attempted a triple twist on floor. After the 1968 Olympics, he spent two years trying to personalize his gymnastics. It’s debatable whether or not he achieved his goal. Endo, Japan’s head coach at the time, bluntly said, “What sets Kenmotsu apart from others? I do not know very well.” Ouch.
Here’s what else happened at the 1970 World Championships…
At the 1970 World Championships, the favorite for the men’s all-around title should have been Kato Sawao, the winner of the all-around in Mexico City in 1968. However, in February of 1970, he tore his right Achilles tendon while tumbling on floor. It was a major topic of conversation at the World Championships in Ljubljana. Here’s just one news report on the matter:
Endo: “Early this year [Kato] suffered an Achilles tendon injury during a dismount, which was difficult to heal. By the time things got going again, he was already eliminated. Too bad for him, but there was nothing that could be done about it.”De Tijd, Oct. 31, 1970
Endo: “Begin dit jaar kreeg hij bij een afsprong een achillespeesblessure, die moeilijk genas. Toen het weer een beetje ging, was hij al geëlimineerd. Jammer voor hem, maar daar was niets aan te doen.”
The injury wasn’t just a major topic of conversation at the 1970 World Championships; it was also a major moment in Kato’s life. 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 dedicates two entire chapters to his Achilles tear, his recovery, and his mindset after the injury. What follows are translations of short excerpts from his book.
What were the compulsory routines for the World Championships in Ljubljana?
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, there aren’t videos of the routines on YouTube. But in this post, you can find the English text and drawings for both the men’s and women’s compulsories.
At the 1930 World Championships (originally called the International Tournament), tragedy struck. Yugoslav gymnast Anton Malej fell during his rings routine and was taken to the hospital, where he later died on July 15, 1930. He was 23.
Despite the accident, the Yugoslav gymnasts kept competing and took home third place. Fellow countryman Josip Primožič won the all-around.
The results, though, should have an asterisk next to them, given that the gymnasts didn’t compete in five of the scheduled events.
The competition was originally scheduled for July 12 and 14, 1930. However, rainy weather on July 14 resulted in a premature end to the competition, and the organizers decided to count only the scores from the first day (i.e. the scores from the apparatus gymnastics portion of the competition).
Reminder: This was not the first time that inclement weather caused problems during the International Tournament. In 1911, Cupérus, the FIG President at the time, wanted the athletes to compete in inclement weather rather than end the competition or finish it the next day. And two years prior, at the 1928 Olympics, the FIG was upset that the stadium was not prepared for inclement weather.
During the first day of the 1930 International Tournament, Anton Malej fell from the rings and later died in the hospital. His injury happened on a rather simple skill: an inverted hang. Here’s how Pierre Hentgès, Sr., recalled the injury:
On the rings, during a simple part — an inverted pike hang — the young Yugoslavian gymnast Anton Malej fell so badly that he had to be taken to the hospital immediately for professional treatment with a cervical vertebrae injury.Olympische Turnkunst, December 1967.
An den Ringen, in einfachem Übungsteil aus dem Sturzhang, fiel der junge jugoslawische Turner Anton Malej so unglücklich, daß er sofort mit einer Halswirbelverletzung zu fachgerechter Behandlung ins Spital überführt werden mußte.
What follows is a translation of Malej’s obituary from Sokolski Glasnik (July 15, 1930).
To read more about the 1930 World Championships, head over to this post.
Coming into the 1926 International Tournament in Lyon, France, the Czechoslovak team had won three consecutive team titles at the International Tournament (1911, 1913, and 1922). Plus, they had won the team title at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. So, the 1926 World Championships (called the International Tournament at the time) were an opportunity to further demonstrate their superiority.
Here’s a quick summary of what happened on May 22 and 23, 1926, in Lyon, France.