Founded in 1881, the International Gymnastics Federation is the oldest international sports federation in the world. Quite rightly so, as gymnastics is a very old sport, with its roots dating back to ancient times. Back then, it was recommended by philosophers as a way of combining physical exercise with intellectual activity. The sport grew in popularity over the 19th century, with an increasing number of competitions, culminating when the Olympic Games were revived in Athens in 1896.
Brief overview of the rules
Artistic gymnastics is composed of a number of individual competitions on different apparatus, as well as a team competition involving all apparatus. Each piece of apparatus requires different skills. Men compete across the pommel horse, floor, vault, rings, horizontal bar and parallel bars, while women’s events include the floor, vault, beam and uneven bars. Across the range of elements, each more spectacular than the last, the various moves and combinations test athletes’ strength, agility, coordination and speed.
Until 2004, gymnasts were scored out of a maximum of 10 points, but from 2005 onwards, the scoring system changed to combine a ‘D’ (difficulty) score with an ‘E’ (execution) score to allow greater differentiation between athletes’ performance. The sport started to consider changes to the scoring system following the 1976 Games, when Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci became the first competitor ever to earn a ‘perfect score’ of 10.
Gymnastics was introduced at the very first Olympic Games of the modern era in 1896, and has been included in every edition since, where only men were allowed to participate. The women’s competition was added to the Olympic programme at the Amsterdam Games in 1928. The disciplines evolved greatly over the first half of the 20th century, before they were stabilised in 1960 for women and 1936 for men.
In the 1960s and 70s, Japan dominated the Olympic podium, before being surpassed by the Soviet Union and East Germany. Nowadays, centre stage in artistic gymnastics is primarily occupied by Japan, USA, Russia and China.
International federation : International Gymnastics Federation
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