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History of Gymnastics

“Gymnastics is older than man himself”. The movement depicted in symbols of pre-historic man indicate that these movements were for the purpose of cheer and enjoyment, for shelter, for food and escaping from enemies.

Egyptian painting in which a man is performing saltos show that these dances were for religious activity and were popular. The ancient Chinese civilization believed that “inactivity causes disease”. The origin of the gymnastic art is there in the form of Kungfu. Indians have the old history of Yoga. Nat (Bazigar) i.e. acrobats have always been popular in India. Spartans used it for entertainment.

The first Gymnasts came from Greece about 3000 years ago. Painted pictures of the Egyptian era show the origin of gymnastics. Romans adopted it from the Greeks. In 1912 a German, FRIEDRICH LUDWIG JAHN, started a gymnastic school and invented some apparatus for the gymnasts to use. Jahn was the first person in the world to lead gymnastics out of the many private establishments and started competitive gymnastics which flourished in Europe after the mid 1700.

Jahn created veritable group gymnastics above all, he created a real sense of community in gymnastics. Gymnastics was practiced in an outdoor gymnasium made by him called Turn-platx. After Jahn it flourished in Europe after the mid 1700. Pestalozzi (1746-1827), Spiess (1810-1858), P.H. Ling (1776-1839) and F.H. Ling (1820-1886) from Sweden, Franz Nachiegill (1774-1847) and Col Amaros (1769-1848) were responsible for the development of gymnastics. They were the collaborators of Jahn, pioneer of women’s gymnastics, fore runner of and biomechanics terminology of gymnastics, etc.

NICHOLAS-J. Cuperus (BEL) (1842-1928) was the founder and first president of FIG for 43 years (1881-1924). Herman Weingartner and Louis Zitter were the victors at the 1896 Olympics Games in Athens. The year 1952 marked a decisive turning point in international gymnastics. The U.S.S.R and Japan appeared simultaneously at the Olympics Games in Helsinki where the Russian Gymnasts were ahead of Switzerland and Japan obtained the 6th place. A highly elaborated form of gymnastics was now being applied against the voluntary and assiduous gymnastics of the western world.

Akitomo Kaneko, a passionately interested professor of biomechanics, master of gymnastics and veritable creator of Japanese miracle, contributed much to Japan. Following the USSR and Japan and the two Germanies, the United States of America and China began to influence the movement towards the end of the 1970s.

The Americans achieved their greatest all-round success at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The People’s Republic of China did not have to wait long for Olympic success in Los Angeles (1984), where the men’s team came second behind the USA and Li Ning (3rd individual title) won gold medals for the floor, the pommel horse and the rings.

During this decade more and more talented Gymnasts have appeared in the countries that traditionally did not play a leading part (China, France or Spain, etc.) the difference between the leading nations have decreased and the battle for medal has become more relentless.

The Gymnastics Federation of India was established in 1951. In 1952 the first national championship was organized by GFI in Madras and Punjab won the team championship. Russia, G.D.R. and Japanese coaches have given their contribution to India. Gymnastics in India was also developed by some effort till the year 1989 saw the establishment of the National Sports Academy in Allahabad, India.

This is now the centre of excellence in gymnastics winning laurels for the nation in major international events like the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.