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History of Women's Gymnastics in the Olympics

by
author image Sarah Robertson
Sarah Robertson is a dynamic writer with over five years of experience in journalism. Since graduating from Bournemouth University with a multimedia journalism degree, Robertson has worked on various preschool, pre-teen and sports titles including Barbie, Girl Talk and SportsPro. She continues to write for The Gymnast magazine, as well as updating gymnastics blogs on a regular basis.
History of Women's Gymnastics in the Olympics
A female gymnast is putting chalk on her hands. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Gymnastics is one of the oldest Olympic sports, having appeared at every modern Games since 1896. In the early days, the sport was exclusive to men, with women being allowed to enter the Olympic competitions in 1928. Since then, women's artistic gymnastics has grown to be one of the most popular Olympic sports, and girls take part in gymnastics classes around the world.

Origins

The roots of gymnastics can be traced back to ancient Greece, with the word gymnastics derived from the ancient Greek word "gumnos," which means naked. Early versions of the sport were held outside and gymnasts were naked, which excluded women from watching and competing. Events included rope climbing, wrestling and bull jumping, with only a loose connection to the apparatus seen in modern gymnastics.

Early Days

In the 19th century, gymnastics events similar to those held today began across Europe and America. The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique, or FIG, was founded in 1881. The first Women's Artistic Gymnastics World Championships was held in 1934 and has remained popular since then.

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The Olympics

Men were involved in every Olympic Games, but it wasn’t until the Amsterdam Games in 1928 that the women’s events appeared. Back then, women competed on the same apparatus as men. The floor exercise was included in 1932. In 1952, the bar, beam, floor and vault events for women were added.

Top Performers

The 1970s saw two of the most famous female gymnasts compete on the Olympic stage. At the Munich Games in 1972, Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut stole the hearts of the world, and four years later, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, scored the sport’s first perfect 10 in Montreal. American gymnast Nastia Liukin won the all-around title at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, following in the footsteps of fellow American Carly Patterson, who won the gold medal in 2004.

Changing Face

The emergence of young teenage gymnasts, especially after the success of Comaneci and Korbut, created change in the women’s competition. Younger girls were being pushed to perfection by their coaches from a young age, which was frowned upon by some. By the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the age requirement for gymnasts had been raised to 16.

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References

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