The sport of gymnastics, including the floor portion of tumbling, dates back to ancient Greece, when soldiers used gymnastics techniques to train for war. The word itself even comes from the Greek word, вЂњgymnos,вЂќ meaning naked. However, the modern sport of gymnastics didn't evolve until the 19th century and was added to the Olympic roster at the tail-end of the 1800s.
Germany and the Early 1800s
Competitive gymnastics developed in Germany during the early 1800s in societies known as Turnverein. While these societies focused on gymnastics training, they were also political in nature. The вЂњfather of gymnastics,вЂќ Friedrich Jahn, preached for an independent Germany through unification of German land and democratic reform. He designed equipment such as the horizontal bar, parallel bars, side horse, balance beam and vaulting horse, with the goal of training young men physically and mentally in preparation for liberating and unifying Germany under a reformed government. These societies, known as вЂњturnersвЂќ in America, spread through Germany and other places in Europe. Turner societies were outlawed in Germany in 1819, though the restrictions were lifted in 1942.
Coming to America
As Germany began a period of political unrest, three followers of Jahn fled to the United States. Charles Beck introduced an education gymnastics program in Massachusetts in 1825; Charles Follen introduced gymnastics to Harvard University and founded an American gymnasium; and Francis Leiber took over Follen's responsibilities when he quit in 1827. In 1883, the Amateur Athletic Union added gymnastics to its roster of sports it organizes within the United States. For international competitions, the Bureau of European Gymnastics Federation, now the International Gymnastic Federation, was organized in 1881.
Gymnastic first appeared at the 1896 Olympics, where five countries competed in men's categories of horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, rings and vault. The Germans won all medals that year. The sport expanded at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, when men began competing for individual titles on each piece of equipment, as well as team awards. Women began competing in 1928, although American women did not join the competition until the 1936 games in Berlin, Germany.
1950s to Modern Day
The sport of gymnastics was not standardized until 1954 when men's gymnastics was deemed to officially include individual and team events on the floor, horizontal bar, parallel bars, still rings, pommel horse and vault. Women's events were held on the vault, balance beam, uneven parallel bars and floor for both team and individual. A branch of the sport known as rhythmic gymnastics was officially recognized by FIG in 1962, though not added as an Olympic sport until 1984. In 2000, trampolining was added to the Olympics under the gymnastics umbrella. In the United States, the official governing body for the sport formed in 1970 as The United States Gymnastics Federation. It is known now as USA Gymnastics.
Changes in Scoring
The Olympic games have historically awarded points for gymnastics on a one to 10 scale. Gymnast Nadia Comaneci earned the first вЂњperfect 10вЂќ in Montreal in 1976. However, eight years later, the Los Angeles Olympics saw 44 perfect 10s awarded, and FIG began to examine the point system and made changes, introducing a starting value for a routine based on level of difficulty and succession of tricks. Errors would then be deducted from that starting value. In 2005, the system changed again after a controversy at the 2004 Athens games and now involves a complex judging procedure based on starting difficulty and execution, where top scores land in the 15s and 16s.