Through the Ages comes the Gymnast

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    Aug 28, 2012
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Gymnastics has been around for a very long time but it is only in the last 100 years that it has become a competitive sport.

In ancient Greece every city boasted of a gymnasium. The Romans took up gymnastics to train their legions.  The wooden horse (vault), was used by them to teach the cavalry to mount and dismount at speed.

However, Gymnastics precedes even this, dating as far back as 7,000 years ago when acrobatics were being performed in Egypt.  During Medieval times, travelling minstrel shows included tumbling which they
performed to any who would watch.

But modern gymnastics really took shape in the late 18th to early 19th century with the work of two men, Johann Friedrich GutsMuths and Friedrich Ludwig who developed a program of exercises designed to improve balance, strength and suppleness.  And who also designed some of the more familiar apparatus we still see today, such as the parallel bars and rings. 

Around this time there were two types of gymnastics, Per Henrik Ling of Sweden, having been a fencing master, focused more on smooth linking movements a development leading to more graceful gymnast.  Whilst Jahn still concentrated on the strength. 

In 1891 International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) formed and five years later gymnastics escaped from its military background making its debut onto the Olympic stage.  In 1903 in Antwerp, Belgium, what is now considered to be the first world championship in the history of gymnastics took place. Yet women did not compete until the Olympic Games held in 1928. And it was not until 1952 that individual apparatus was used.  Up until 1954 track and field events such pole vault, long jump, shot put to name but a few, were also still included as gymnastics. It was then that the sport was standardized to regulate the different events and apparatus. The ten to one scoring system was introduced in that same year and by 1955, modern gymnastics had become the sport we know today.

Then in 1962 rhythmic gymnastics was recognised by the FIG, however it was not until 1984 it was seen at the Olympics and trampolining was not introduced until as late as the 2000 Sydney Games. Both of these sports come under the umbrella of athletic gymnastics.

For over 80 years, the scoring system remained the same, but by the 1990s, the FIG felt that too many tens were being awarded, let’s remember that 44 were awarded in the 1984 Olympics. So in 2005 a new code of points was introduced to reflect a new way of differentiating between a gymnast's routines. The perfect 10 was gone.  Replaced by a new, more complicated judging system, one which analysed performances based on starting difficulty and execution. In the current system, a good score is usually in the mid-to-high 16's.

Like many sports through history, gymnastics roots are deeply embedded in battle, but the resulting evolution has made it a joy to watch incorporating beauty and strength.

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Virginia Montgomery is a stay at home mom who enjoys writing articles for Interesting Articles.

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