June 21, 2024


Exercise makes you strong

How gymnastics evolved from ‘exercising naked’

TOKYO – The term gymnastics is derived from the historic Greek “gymnazein,” meaning “to physical exercise naked.”

The activity, now between the Olympics’ most beloved functions, was born millennia in the past, as younger men skilled for war in the buff.

All through human historical past, in all corners of the world, folks have flipped and spun and twisted to discover the limits of the human body. Egyptian hieroglyphs depict backbends, according to Britannica, and stone engravings from historic China illustrate acrobats.

In arenas currently, gymnasts compete on a series of what are termed apparatuses: both men and gals do a tumbling regimen, identified as a ground exercising, and launch on their own off a vault. But their other events are diverse. Gentlemen contend in a total of six: the floor, the vault, the pommel horse, still rings, parallel bars and horizontal bar. Women contend in just four, with the equilibrium beam and uneven bars extra to the flooring and vault.


It was not often that way. Early gymnastics involved pursuits like rope climbing.

So how did gymnastics transfer from young Greeks education naked to precise, extremely calibrated gatherings with a complex scoring method?


At the Online games, men swing all around a leather-covered block with handles called a pommel horse, that in early iterations around mimicked the dimension and condition of the real animal. Alexander the Fantastic, king of Macedonia from 336 to 323 B.C., had his Macedonian soldiers coach on a similar product to apply mounting their horses for struggle, in accordance to the European Gymnastics Company.

The fashionable variation was invented in the early 19th century by German Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, known as the “father of gymnastics” for founding a sequence of gymnastics facilities intended to cultivate well being and patriotism. These gyms were being intended, in aspect, to get young Germans all set to defend the place versus Napoleon’s French navy.


Jahn also invented the early variations of the bar routines that exist now: parallel bars and horizontal bars for males, and the women’s uneven bars developed from the parallel bars to showcase agility and elegance.


For most of modern-day gymnastics history, the vault looked like the pommel horse with out handles. Both of those adult males and ladies dash towards it, flip and start by themselves into a series of spins and twists.

But it was redesigned two a long time in the past right after horrific accidents in the 1980s and 1990s as gymnasts started attempting much more risky maneuvers: American Julissa Gomez was paralyzed in a vaulting incident in 1988 and died three decades afterwards. A decade later on, Chinese gymnast Sang Lan fell, broke her neck and was paralyzed.

Then, in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the vault was established two inches much too low. In this activity of precision and timing, the trouble caused a disastrous set of problems like one athletes practically lacking the vault totally.


The new apparatus was called a “vaulting desk,” and has a wider, extra cushioned area for athletes to spring from. Slate magazine described in 2004 when it designed its initially Olympics debut that athletes had taken to contacting it “the tongue.”


When gentlemen suspend them selves on two rings, hanging from straps, they are undertaking the gymnastics function that requires the most bodily strength of any of the apparatuses.

They are called even now rings due to the fact the gymnasts attempt to maintain them as stationary as doable as they swing into distinct positions. They were at first identified as the “Roman rings,” mainly because their origin as a toughness-instruction machine is thought to day again thousand of a long time in Italy. In early iterations of the fashionable Olympics, they ended up occasionally referred to as the “flying rings.”

Equilibrium BEAM

The equilibrium beam started off off hundreds of years ago as a log suspended in the air. It has been refined around the years to a padded beam, 16 ft extended, 4 ft large and 4 inches broad. It is thought of the women’s function that needs the additional emphasis and precision. A minuscule misstep can send out a gymnast tumbling to the floor.



AP National Author Claire Galofaro is on assignment in Tokyo masking gymnastics at the Olympics. Stick to her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ClaireGalofaro. A lot more AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports activities

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