History Of Gymnastics

A Brief History Of Gymnastics

Like so many other things, the history of gymnastics did not began at some well-defined point in time, but as it is often the case, the beginnings are "clouded in the mists of time". We commonly think of the ancient Greeks of developing the sport some 2,500 years ago, but there is strong evidence that gymnastics on one form or another was practiced even earlier by the Chinese and Japanese, and the sport appeared to be practiced in ancient Egypt and Persia as well. Primitive man may have played a role in the history of gymnastics, although there are no clues to suggest that anything in the way of gymnastics competition ever took place.

Ancient Gymnastics - The Chinese, Japanese, and possibly the Egyptians, most likely viewed gymnastics as a form or exercise and a means for better health and physical improvement. It appears to be the Greeks who took gymnastics to a whole new level, that of competition. The Greeks even went a step further, in treating gymnastics as much as an art form as a sporting event. Competitive sports in Greece actually go back at least 3,500 years, and somewhere along the line, possibly quite early, some of these competitions involved gymnastics to some extent. There is no doubt that gymnastics had a place in the ancient Olympic Games.

The Romans also held gymnastics in a high regard, inheriting the combined sport, art form, and physical training regimen, from the Greeks. With the fall of the Roman Empire however, expansion of the gymnastics throughout the rest of Europe appears to have come to a dead halt, a situation which prevailed for several hundred years.

The Revival Of Gymnastics - The history of gymnastics shows a revival occurring near the end of the 18th century in Germany, with Denmark and Sweden following suit in the early 19th century and mid 19th century, respectively. At this period in the history of gymnastics, the focus appeared to be on tumbling, rope climbing, and calisthenics. Although the exact time isn't known, the beam and vaulting horse were apparently introduced during this period.

Gymnastics Comes To America - Having spread throughout Europe, gymnastics was introduced to America in the 19th century and late in the 19th century was recognized as a sport by the Amateur Athletic Union.

As far as the modern Olympic Games were concerned, gymnastics events were on-again off-again during the first 50 years or so of the modern Olympics. It wasn't until mid-century that gymnastics began to play a featured role in the summer Olympic Games, with the then Soviet Union taking the leading role.

Petite Russian, Petite Romanian – A pivotal point in the history of gymnastics may have occurred during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, when millions watching on TV, witnessed the 3 gold medal gymnastics performance of young Olga Korbut. Four years later, even more viewers had the opportunity to watch a diminutive Romanian girl, Nadia Comanici, not only become the first to score a perfect 10 in the sport, but to score 10's several times, winning 5 Olympic medals in the process.

It was about this time that gymnastic competitions begin taking place among the American universities, although a few colleges and universities had introduced the sport earlier. Today, gymnastics competitions among colleges and universities is widespread, and while the competitions do not draw the crowds associated with football and basketball, competitions are often well attended, especially in the year immediately preceding the summer Olympics. Gymnastics competition, as well as gymnastics demonstrations are very popular today throughout Europe. The Greek idea of gymnastics as a perfect combination of sport and art form still holds true.