Gymnastics has existed for over 2000 years and has changed dramatically over time. The way this sport looks today is very different from what it used to be in the past. In the following lines we will present a brief history of gymnastics.
Origin of gymnastics
Gymnastics originated in Ancient Greece, and its purpose was physical development through a series of exercises. Physical preparation was highly valued in Ancient Greece. Men and women participated in many gymnastic exercises.
After the conquest of Greece, the Romans developed activities in a more formal sport and used schools to physically prepare their legions for war.
However, with the decline of the Roman Empire, interest in gymnastics diminished and gradually became a form of entertainment.
At the end of the 17th, early 18th century, German teacher Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852) laid the foundations of modern gymnastics by inventing parallel bars, still rings, beam, pommel horse and high bar, as well as a set of rules for group exercises. He is referred to as “father of modern gymnastics”, and the equipment he invented became standard in the sport. This is how the principles of modern gymnastics were born.
Friedrich Ludwig Jahn created a strong message for both youth and adults, and in 1811 opened the first gymnastics club.
Long before the creation of the FIG (Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique) in 1881, various countries established their own national gymnastics federations. The first is Switzerland in 1832, followed by Germany (1860), Belgium (1865), Poland (1867), Italy (1869) and France (1873).
In 1881 the Belgian Nicolas J. Cuperus created a movement based on his vision of gymnastics. In doing so, he wrote the first pages in FIG history. An idealist by nature, Cuperus avoided all forms of competition. Instead, he focused on gymnastics, which was essentially aimed towards amateurs, with educational purpose and accessible to all.
His successor, the Frenchman Charles Cazalet, иhad a different perspective. He organized the first international competitions, thus creating competitive artistic gymnastics.
Ironically, in 1903, the first World Gymnastics Championship was held in Antwerp, Belgium, the hometown of Cuperus, which was against all forms of competition.
The participants in the 1903 World Championship, which ended in a triumph for France, were only men. At that time, the federation was extremely conservative in this respect, and it was not until 1934 that it approved the participation of women in competitions.
At the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki (Finland), gymnastics takes on the shape we know today. This includes six apparatus for men (floor, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar) and four for women (vault, uneven bars, beam and floor). Since then, there has been only one significant change in the vault. In 2001. at the Ghent World Championship (Belgium) the apparatus is replaced with a new one.
Gymnastics has always had its icons – athletes whose names remain engraved in the history of their disciplines. These include, of course, an elite group of athletes who have achieved the “holy grail” of gymnastics: The perfect 10 at the Olympics. These stars are Nadia Comăneci (Romania), Nellie Kim (USSR) and Alexander Dityatin (USSR).
Bulgarian participation in gymnastics
The greatest merit for the participation of Bulgaria in the first Olympic Games in 1896 is the teacher Todor Yonchev, chairman of the Sofia gymnastics society “Yunak”, founded in 1895. He took four representatives of the society to Athens, but only Charl Champo, a gymnastics teacher at the First Sofia Men’s High School and the head of Yunak, took part in the competitions. He competed in three individual disciplines and holds the prestigious fifth place on vault. He took the first 2 points for Bulgaria from the Olympic Games. In the final ranking our country was 11th. The first medal was won by Velik Kapsazov – bronze on still rings from Rome in 1960. Twenty years later in Moscow in 1980, Stoyan Deltchev took the first Olympic title in this sport. Our most successful gymnast is Yordan Yovchev with 4 medals from two Olympic Games.He won bronze medal in 2000 in Sydney on floor and still rings.In Athens in 2004 he won second place on still rings and third on floor.
The first and only women’s medal was won by Diana Dudeva – bronze on floor from Seoul in 1988. Then Lyubomir Geraskov took the gold on pommel horse.
Apart from achievements in the Summer Olympics, Bulgaria has numerous medals from European and World Championships.