History of gymnastics
Gymnastics is one of four sports (along with swimming, track and field and fencing) to be included on every Olympic program since 1896. Only men competed in gymnastics in the first seven Olympics. The high bar, parallel bars, rings, pommel horse and vault were contested at the 1896 Games. Also included at the 1896 Games was rope climbing, as well as team competition in the parallel and high bars. The individual all-around competition was introduced in 1900. The team competition was first contested at the 1904 Games. Women’s gymnastics was introduced in 1928, was absent in 1932, but has been a part of every Olympic Games since.
Over the bar
Prior to 1996, no country was more dominant in gymnastics than the Soviet Union. Between 1952 and 1992, the Soviet Union, and Unified Team in 1992, averaged 20 medals per Olympics in the 10 Games it participated in. The Soviets also had two of the most successful Olympians of all-time: Larisa Latynina, who won 18 medals in her career, and Nikolai Andrianov, who won 15 medals, including seven at the 1976 Montreal Games. In recent years, China, Russia and Romania have all topped the gymnastics medal chart at the Olympics. At the 2012 London Games, both China and Russia won eight medals. At the 2008 Beijing Games, China collected 14. In 2004, Romania led the way with 10. And at the 2000 Sydney Games, Russia had the most medals with 15.
Looking ahead to the Rio Games, there will be several countries and athletes looking to extend impressive streaks. In the men’s individual all-around, Japan’s Kohei Uchimura will try to win his second consecutive gold medal in the event and third straight medal overall in the event. Only three other men have won this event twice and only one other man has won three medals in the all-around. In the women’s individual all-around, an American has won the last three gold medals (Carly Patterson in 2004, Nastia Liukin in 2008 and Gabby Douglas in 2012). No country has ever won four straight gold medals in the women’s individual all-around and only two women have ever successfully defended their all-around titles. In the women’s team competition, Romania is looking to win its 11th straight medal in this event, a streak that dates back to 1976, when a team led by Nadia Comaneci won silver in Montreal. At the 2012 London Games, Romania earned bronze.