Women's Artistic Gymnastics

 

History

  All time greats  

Though women did not take part in the Ancient Olympic Games, they also practiced Gymnastics exercises in Ancient Greece, where physical perfection was highly idealised. Women were excluded from these exercises in the Roman era, when the emphasis was on creating an unbeatable army. One millennium after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the advent of Humanism and its revival of Greek and Roman philosophy and science eventually led to the concept of physical education (see Men's Artistic Gymnastics history for more). Organised Gymnastics was introduced again in the 18th and 19th century in Western Europe, where Gymnastics exercises were once again seen for their value in military exercises, which also excluded women. Upper-class women had opportunities to engage in sport and leisure, but it was not until the Industrial Revolution and its corresponding social upheaval when women joined the workforce in large numbers, that women of all classes and sport were reunited. Group calisthenics, frequently called Swedish Gymnastics and commonly performed to music, were seen as attractive for women.

It was these group routines that formed the first competitive exercises for women, and the team competition was the only event for women at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. For several decades women also competed in an event known as the Flying Rings (in contrast to the Still Rings event), and group routines stayed in the Olympics until 1952. Competitive opportunities were few and far between for women until after the Second World War. The Soviet Union arrived on the scene at the 1952 Olympic Games and brought the sport to another level, and would remain undefeated in the team competition for four decades. Soviet Larisa Latynina, who won 18 medals from 1952-60, still has more medals than any other woman in Olympic history.

 

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Jade BARBOSA (BRA)

 

It was not until the second half of the 20th century that women became widely celebrated for athletic achievements and their performances recognised for their entertainment value. Televised broadcasts of Gymnastics competitions at the Olympic Games introduced the sport to millions, capturing the hearts and minds of viewers. From 1968-76, the courage of Věra Čáslavská, the daring of Olga Korbut and the perfection of Nadia Comăneci created a revolution in the sport and sent young girls flocking to gyms to pursue their own competitive dreams.

The four modern events, along with the combined All-around and Team competitions, have been in place since 1956. The equipment has increasingly allowed more spring and bounce since the 1970s as difficulty in the sport has increased. Uneven parallel bars have undergone a radical transformation, both in equipment specifications and routine composition, to more closely resemble men's Horizontal Bar rather than its original sister event, men's Parallel Bars.

The sport of Women's Gymnastics was dominated for decades by Eastern Europeans, with the Czechs, Soviets, East Germans and Romanians all but unbeatable, and the Chinese joining the fray in 1979. The fall of the Eastern Bloc in 1991 sent top coaches all over the world, raising the technical level worldwide. The United States, along with the traditional powers of Russian, Romania and China, have dominated the sport in the 21st century, and other nations such as Italy, Great Britain and Brazil are producing world champions. Since 2013, American Simone Biles has smashed records, joining Latynina, Čáslavská, Comăneci, Daniela Silivaș (ROU), and Svetlana Khorkina (RUS) among the all-time icons of the sport.