Categories
2023 Floor Music WAG World Championships

2023: The Floor Music of the World Championships

I think it’s important to document the floor music used at major gymnastics competitions. It tells us a lot about the general cultural zeitgeist in the world, as well as what gymnasts and their coaches think the judges will or will not like.

Here are a few trends this year…

Categories
1971 Apparatus Norms Code of Points FIG Bulletin MAG

1971: The FIG President’s Thoughts on Men’s Optional Exercises

In a 1971 bulletin, Arthur Gander, who was president of the FIG at the time, published a long series of remarks about the state of optional exercises in men’s gymnastics. Gander’s article touches upon some of the challenges in both men’s and women’s gymnastics that persist to this day.

For example, monotony. Even in the era of risk, originality, and virtuosity, there were certain skills and combinations that had almost become compulsory. (Granted, risk, originality, and virtuosity were still in their infancy at that point.)

Side saltos. Gymnastics fans love to hate on side saltos on beam, and guess what! Arthur Gander didn’t like them, either, on men’s floor!

Value assignments. What constitutes an A, B, or C part? Should such-and-such skill really be a C? Yup, the FIG was wrestling with those questions back in the day, as well.

There’s also the question of nostalgia. As you read Gander’s remarks, you might find yourself wondering, Does Mr. Gander want to see these skills because they would add variety or because they are representative of a different era of gymnastics? And how often does nostalgia for a past era color our view of gymnastics today?

Finally, the fear of the “feminization” of men’s gymnastics. Though Gander believed that men could learn a thing or two from women’s uneven bars, he feared that men’s floor exercise could become too feminine, especially if floor music were included. It’s a question that has been raised as gymnasts like Heath Thorpe (AUS) incorporate more leaps into their floor routines.

Another interesting tidbit: Gander mentions that the IOC was not pleased with men’s vault in 1968, questioning whether the event was worthy of an Olympic medal.

Below, you’ll find my translation of Gander’s remarks. (The FIG provided its own English translation in its bulletin, but the translation was quite rough and difficult to follow.)

Categories
1970 1971 Age FIG Bulletin FIG Congress WAG

1970: Setting the Age Limit for WAG at 14

In 1970, the Women’s Technical Committee set the competitive age limit at 14. One year later, they issued an explanation of sorts. It included a warning to members, recognizing that abusive methods were leaving child gymnasts damaged. By setting the age limit at 14, their hope was to see more “mature work” that displayed a “woman’s charm.”

Here’s what was recorded in the 1971 FIG bulletins about the question of age in women’s artistic gymnastics.

Categories
1973 FIG Congress USSR WAG

1973: The Quixotic Quest to Ban Korbut’s Skills

In 1973, newspapers around the globe printed some version of this headline: “Olga ‘May Say Goodbye Forever.’”

The articles typically went on to explain that Olga Korbut, the fan favorite of the Munich Games, might end her gymnastics career because the FIG had decided that her skills were too dangerous.

Not surprisingly, the newspapers got some of the details wrong. One Japanese newspaper wrote, “The 89-pound Olympic gold medalist has been banned from performing a breathtaking double backward somersault on the balance beam” (The Daily Yomiuri, July 18, 1973).

To be clear, the FIG did not ban a double back on the beam, nor did Korbut perform a double back on the beam. But in early 1973, the Women’s Technical Committee (WTC) was set to ban two skills that Korbut popularized: the standing back tuck on beam, as well as dismounting the bars by pushing off with one’s feet.

Then, over the course of the year, the members of the WTC slowly walked back their decision.

So, here’s a brief history of the Women’s Technical Committee’s decisions in 1973, as well as a translation of Korbut’s interview that sent shockwaves around the globe.

Bildnummer: 03508694 Datum: 28.08.1972 Copyright: imago/Werner Schulze Olga Korbut (UdSSR) – Stufenbarren; quer Olympische Spiele 1972 Sommerspiele Kunstturnen Geräteturnen Vneg Vsw München Turnen OS Sommer Damen Einzel Einzelbild Aktion Personen Kurios

Reminder: Korbut was not the only gymnast to do a standing back tuck on beam at the 1972 Olympics. Nancy Thies (USA) also did one in Munich. Nor was she the only gymnast to dismount the uneven bars using her feet. Her teammate Bogdanova was doing a double-twisting version of Korbut’s dismount. Korbut was the most famous gymnast to perform those skills and thus became a lightning rod for the issue.

Note: The articles below will mention Korbut’s coach. Korbut has alleged that Knysh sexually assaulted her. Knysh has denied the allegations.

Categories
1973 Interviews & Profiles MAG USSR

1973: A Profile of Viktor Klimenko – “Catching up and Overtaking”

In July of 1973, after Viktor Klimenko won his second European all-around title, Stadión, a weekly Czechoslovak sports magazine, published a profile on him. It offers details about his early years in the sport, his rivalries within the Soviet team, his coaching changes, his recovery from an Achilles tear that occurred during the 1971 European Championships, and more.

Enjoy!

Note: You can read a much shorter profile of the Klimenko brothers from 1972 here.

Categories
1973 European Championships MAG

1973: Klimenko Wins the All-Around at the European Championships

At the 1971 European Championships, Viktor Klimenko won the all-around. Then, while warming up for the event finals on floor, he tore his Achilles tendon. He managed to recover in time to win gold on pommel horse, silver on vault, and a silver with the Soviet team in Munich. One year later, in 1973, Klimenko once again found himself on top of the all-around podium at the European Championships in Grenoble, France.

But it was his teammate Nikolai Andrianov who pushed the sport’s difficulty level forward by debuting new elements: a double pike on floor as well as a full-twisting double back off rings. (Reminder: Tsukahara had competed a full-twisting double back off high bar in 1972, and one year later, Andrianov was doing the same dismount off rings.)

Also of note: Bernd Effing performed an Arabian 1 ¾ on floor in Grenoble, helping to usher in decades of roll-out skills (and concussions). And Eberhard Gienger added his own spin to Tsukahara’s full-twisting double back off high bar by performing the twist on the first flip.

While the gymnastics was exciting at the men’s European Championships, the organization of the competition left much to be desired. For example, they played the wrong national anthem for Eberhard Gienger. It happened during a historic medal ceremony where Gienger from West Germany and Klaus Köste from East Germany stood side by side on the podium.

Here’s a bit more about the 1973 European Championships in Grenoble.

Eberhard Gienger (BR Deutschland) mit einem Skelett Eberhard Gienger BR Germany with a Skeleton

Note: I was looking for photos of the historic medal ceremony, but I couldn’t locate any. This is what I found instead.
Categories
1973 MAG Riga International WAG

1973: Schegolkova and Andrianov Win the Riga International

The Riga International was one of the first major international competitions in 1973. Olympic gold medalists Nikolai Andrianov, Klaus Köste, and Elvira Saadi competed, but it wasn’t a well-attended event:

The attendance was very light for both men’s and women’s events with some increase during the finals.

Gymnast, June/July 1973

Riga was a place where gymnasts often debuted new skills. In 1972, Tsukahara did his full-twisting double back off high bar, and Gehrke became one of the first women to do a Tsukahara on vault. In 1973, Andrianov did one of the first double pikes on floor.

Historical context: At the 1962 World Championships, Hristov of Bulgaria attempted one of the first double backs at a major international competition. (He face-planted it.) Eleven years later, the world finally saw one of the first double pikes.

Source: Padomju Jaunatne, Nr. 70, April 10, 1973
Categories
1970 Universiade WAG

1970: The Women’s Competition at the University Games

After boycotting the 1967 Universiade, the Eastern Bloc returned in 1970, and the Soviets swept the podium, winning team gold and the top three places in the individual all-around. Larisa Petrik, who had tied Čáslavská for gold on floor at the 1968 Olympics, won the all-around. And, as always, the Soviet gymnasts were idealized for the quality and fluidity of their movements on floor.

But Soviet gymnasts weren’t the only ones who were pushing the envelope at the Universiade in Turin. The Japanese gymnasts were performing twisting vaults, which would become more common at the 1972 Olympics. On beam, the Hungarian gymnasts took risks by performing aerial cartwheels. (To be sure, Korbut had started performing her standing back tuck on beam at smaller competitions in 1969, but no-handed flight elements like saltos and aerials were uncommon at the time. )

What follows are the results, commentary about the competition, and an interview with Tatiana Schegolkova.

Source: Universiade Torino ’70: Giochi mondiali della FISU
Categories
1970 MAG Universiade

1970: The Men’s Competition at the University Games

In 1970, the Japanese men won the team competition for the fourth consecutive time and the individual all-around for the fifth consecutive time at the University Games. (There wasn’t a team competition at the 1961 Universiade.)

At the University Games in Turin, one could see that the 1968 Code‘s emphasis on risk, originality, and virtuosity was starting to pay off, as gymnasts were seeking to perform more difficult and original skills. In 1969, there was talk of ditching men’s vault altogether because it had become stale. Then, at the 1970 Universiade, Okamura performed a handspring with a front salto on vault. (A few weeks later, Tsukahara performed his eponymous vault at the World Championships.) On high bar, Straumann did a double tuck over the bar, laying the groundwork for decades of creative dismounts and Kovacs-style releases.

What follows are the results, as well as commentary about the competition.

Source: Universiade Torino ’70: Giochi mondiali della FISU
Categories
1970 Japan Universiade

1970: Japan’s Preparation for the University Games

The 1970 University Games fell during the year of the World Championships. Previously, the Universiade was held during the years between the Olympic Games and the World Championships (1961, 1963, 1965, and 1967). However, the 1969 University Games in Portugal fell through, and Turin, Italy, held the competition in 1970.

As a result, Japan had to make a tough decision. Which gymnasts would they send to the University Games? And which ones would they send to the World Championships? They decided not to send the same gymnasts to both.

In Japan’s Official Report on the University Games, Ota Masahide summarized Japan’s preparation for the competition. What follows is a translation…

As you’ll see, adjusting to foreign equipment has been a challenge for decades.

Okamura Teruichi, who won the men’s all-around title at the 1970 University Games
Caption: Okamura’s rings that won the men’s all-around (男子個人総合に優勝した岡村のつり輪)
Source: Japan’s Official Report on the 1970 University Games