Competitive Gymnastics

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gymnastics, Competitive


a sport that includes competitions on gymnastics apparatus, in floor exercises, and in vault (for women) or on the long horse (for men). The program of a modern, all-around gymnastics tournament must include compulsory and optional exercises in several events: for women, the uneven parallel bars, the balance beam, the side-horse vault, and the floor, or free, exercise; for men, the floor exercises, the long horse, the pommel horse, the rings, the parallel bars, and the horizontal bar. After performance of the compulsory and optional programs, the all-around team championship is determined; six to 36 of the best all-around gymnasts and six to eight of the best gymnasts in each event are selected for participation in the finals (individual championship). Compulsory routines are established by the International Gymnastic Federation; optional exercises are composed by the athletes, with attention to official requirements regarding difficulty and content. Performances are evaluated according to a ten-point system.

Gymnastics exercises as part of physical education date to ancient Greece, where they served to prepare youths for participation in the Olympic Games. Since the turn of the 19th century, exercises on gymnastics apparatus and in the vaults have been included in the physical education systems in Russia and Western Europe. Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, competitions in certain gymnastics exercises were held in many countries in Western Europe. The first competitions in Russia took place in Moscow in 1885. The International Gymnastic Federation—the first international sports organization—was established in 1881. At that time it united the representatives of Belgium, the Netherlands, and France; in 1975 its members included the national federations of 67 countries. Competitive gymnastics has been included in the Olympic Games since 1896; women gymnasts have participated in the Olympic Games since 1928. World championships have been held since 1903 (once every two years until 1913, once every four years since 1922); women have competed in the championships since 1934. In the first half of the 20th century, the greatest successes in the Olympic Games and world championships have been achieved by gymnasts from Czechoslovakia, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and the USA.

The development of competitive gymnastics in the USSR in the 1920’s was associated with the program of military training for civilians. The first USSR all-around championships were held in 1928 at the All-Union Spartakiad in Moscow. Women competed in the second championships, held in 1932. Since then, all-around championships have been held regularly, with individual-event competitions held since 1939, all-Union competitions for schoolchildren since 1936, and all-around competitions for the USSR Cup since 1955.

The establishment and development of competitive gymnastics are associated with the names of such instructors and coaches as V. V. Sokolovskii, G. S. Egnatoshvili, B. N. Astafev, A. S. Bak-radze, L. P. Orlov, and N. N. Mironov and the athletes M. V. Tyshko, T. A. Demidenko, E. A. Bokova, G. N. Urbanovich, G. V. Rtskhiladze, M. D. Dmitriev, A. M. Ibadulaev, and N. P. Seryi.

Soviet gymnasts participated for the first time in international competition at the Third Workers’ Olympiad in Antwerp in 1937. The Federation of Gymnastics of the USSR, founded in the early 1930’s as an all-Union section, became a member of the International Gymnastic Federation in 1949. Soviet gymnasts have participated in the Olympic Games since 1952, in the world championships since 1954, and in the European championships since 1955 (European championships for women have been held since 1957). Soviet women’s teams have taken first place at six Olympic Games and five world championships; in 1966 the Soviet team lost to a women’s team from Czechoslovakia. The Soviet men’s teams were victorious at the Olympic Games in 1952 and 1956, and at the world championships in 1954 and 1958; from 1960 to 1974 they took second place, behind Japan.

Soviet gymnasts have included 43 Olympic champions (28 women and 15 men), 38 world champions (14 men and 24 women), and 14 European champions (six women and eight men). For victories in team and individual competitions, Soviet gymnasts have been awarded 188 Olympic medals (89 gold, 66 silver, and 33 bronze), 188 world championship medals (84 gold, 69 silver, and 35 bronze), and 151 European championship medals (66 gold, 57 silver, and 28 bronze). Soviet gymnasts who have won more than once in the Olympic Games and world championships include M. K. Gorokhovskaia, P. G. Astakhova, T. I. Manina, N. A. Kuchinskaia, O. V. Korbut, A. V. Azarian, G. A. Shagini-an, Iu. E. Titov, V. I. Muratov, M. Ia. Voronin, N. E. Andria-nov, and V. Ia. Klimenko. Foreign gymnasts who have won more than once include E. Bosaková (Czechoslovakia), A. Keleti (Hungary), K. Jants and E. Zuchold (German Democratic Republic), W. Lehmann (Switzerland), K. Thoresson (Sweden), H. Bantz (Federal Republic of Germany), M. Cerar (Yugoslavia), F. Menichelli (Italy), K. Koeste (German Democratic Republic), Z. Magyar (Hungary), and Y. Endo, T. Ono, A. Nakayama, M. Tsukahara, S. Kato, E. Kenmotsu, and S. Kasamatsu (Japan). In the history of competitive gymnastics, five athletes have been both world and Olympic all-around champions: L. S. Laty-nina, L. I. Turishcheva, V. I. Chukarin, and B. A. Shakhlin (USSR) and V. Cáslavská (Czechoslovakia). Coaches who have made great contributions to the success of Soviet gymnasts include P. T. Sobenko, A. S. Mishakov, Iu. E. Shtukman, V. S. Rastorotskii, R. I. Knysh, V. D. Dmitriev, and N. G. Tolkachev. Seventy-six gymnasts and coaches have been awarded orders and medals of the USSR.

At the end of 1974, approximately 650,000 people were active in gymnastics, including approximately 850 masters of sport participating in competitions. Eighty-five specialized juvenile sports schools were in operation, as well as 829 gymnastics departments in such schools and 168 gymnastics departments in schools of advanced sports training.


Gimnaslika. Edited by A. T. Brykin. Moscow, 1971.
Kuznetsov, B. A. Gimnastika v SSSR. Moscow, 1955.
Beliakov, V. T. Ocherki o sovetskikh gimnastakh. Moscow, 1958.
Ukran, M. L. Sovetskaia shkola gimnastiki. Moscow, 1954.
Seryi, N. P. Put’ k masterstvu sportivnoigimnastike. Moscow, 1953.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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