Gymnastics is a sport that harmonizes body movement to the lilting tunes of choreographed music. In fact, gymnastics can be likened to an art form. Gymnastics events test the strength, rhythm, balance, flexibility and agility of the gymnast. The history of gymnastics has seen many a popular gymnast who has mesmerized the world with awesome performances.
History of Gymnastics
Distinct gymnastic exercises were developed in ancient Greece as part of a regimen of physical conditioning and military training. These training programs were integral to the educational programs for children, as it was believed that this would facilitate unity of mind and body. History of gymnastics can be traced to ancient Greece. ‘Gymnastics’ originated from the word ‘gymnazein’, which means ‘exercising
Gymnastics in its present form can be traced to Sweden. The history of gymnastics shows that Germany and Czechoslovakia developed gymnastics apparatus around the 1800s. Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, a German educator was known as the Father of gymnastics. He used pieces of stationery apparatus to inculcate and develop self-discipline and strength of body. The Swedish method on the other hand, developed by Pehr Henrik Ling, is rhythmic gymnastics, concentrated on rhythm and coordination with the use of hoops, clubs and small balls.
It was just a matter of time before gymnastics became an extremely popular sport in Europe. The history of gymnastics at a competitive level can be traced to the 1896 Olympics in Athens. The Gymnastics World Championships has its history in the 1903 international event held in Antwerp.
Man gymnastics events are an exhibition of extraordinary skill and absolute precision.
Floor Exercise – The entire floor area in this gymnastics event is used for tumbling passes in different directions. Multiple saltos and twists and clean landings are the hallmark of a competent man gymnastics champion.
Still Rings – The rings should be absolutely still and under control. The gymnast has to be perfectly still and possess proper body position to display mastery over this event.
Vault – The height, distance of travel and the overall acceleration on the vault mark out an excellent man gymnastics champion from the ordinary. The athlete approaches the vault and takes off from the springboard with an acrobatic maneuver in the air. A poised landing will end the performance with panache.
Parallel Bar – Swing and flight are the underlying features of this gymnastics event. The most difficult skills on this gymnastics event require the gymnast to lose sight of the bars for a movement, as in the front and back saltos.
Pommel Horse – This gymnastics event is one of the most difficult yet most subtle. Complex hand placements juxtaposed with body positions allow a gymnast to seamlessly flow from one swing or tumble to another.
Horizontal Bar – The Horizontal or High bar is the perfect man gymnastics event to showcase a gymnast’s artistry and daring.
The Woman gymnastics events have always been a favorite with the spectators. Take a look at some of the events that are part of the Woman gymnastics competitions:
Vault – Tuck, pike or stretch are different body positions in this gymnastics event. Scores are awarded on execution and difficulty. The woman gymnast is judged on her flight from the springboard and landing, with no additional steps taken after the landing.
Uneven Bars – This woman gymnastics event is a crowd puller. It allows for a fine demonstration of the gymnast’s upper body strength, split second timing and aggressive approach. This event is judged on continuous fluid movement without breaks or pauses.
Balancing Beam – A woman gymnastics champion has to execute her graceful routines on a beam that is just four inches wide.
Floor Exercises – This event is a visual treat as it involves blending of choreographed exercises and music. Versatile use of the floor space to maximum advantage and changing direction and level of movement are characteristic of a floor exercise routine. The personality of an individual gymnast is exhibited in this particular event that calls for total body control.
One cannot talk of gymnastics and not mention some all-time greats -- Woman gymnasts who have stunned the world with their fluid movements coupled with agility and grace.
At 13, Nadia Comaneci was the youngest girl gymnast to ever win the European Championship. A protégé of Bela Karolyi, Nadia won the Romanian Junior Championship at the tender age of 9. She mesmerized crowds at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. Her remote personality added to the general air of mystery around her. After battling many ghosts from her past, she escaped from Budapest in 1989 and arrived in New York seeking a free life.
Olga Korbut won over the hearts of people not just with her gymnastics feats but her winning smile. Olga was responsible for turning women’s gymnastics into a sport for young girls. Olga was extremely flexible and caught audience attention with her back flip on the high bar and back tuck on the beam. She used music to good advantage for her floor exercises routine.
Mary Lou Retton came to be known as the ‘little pixie’ of the 1984 Olympics Gymnastics events. Her muscular and athletic form was a departure from the lithe forms so associated with woman gymnasts. A gold medal winner at the 1984 Olympics, she retired from active competition and was a fixture on many commercials. She was responsible for giving America its first Woman Gymnastics gold medal.
Shannon Miller is perhaps America’s most decorated woman gymnastics champion. With an impressive tally of 7 Olympic medals and 9 World Championship all-around titles, Shannon grabbed public attention at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. She was part of the Magnificent Seven who were part of the 1996 Olympic team.
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