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Top 10 Facts about Gymnastics

Did you know that in Ancient Greece, only men could participate in gymnastics - and they often competed naked to please the gods and encourage aesthetic appreciation of the male form? Read on to find out more about this unusual athletic practice and other fascinating facts in our top 10 facts about gymnastics.


1. Nude competitors

In the days of Ancient Greece between 800BC and 500BC, the gymnasia and wrestling schools (known as palestrae) were protected by the gods Heracles, Hermes and Theseus. The word 'gymnasium' derives from the Ancient Greek word, 'gymno' or 'gymnos', which actually means 'naked'. The gymnasium was for men only and served as a training facility for the public games' competitors.


2. Girls allowed

Women weren't allowed to compete in Olympic gymnastics events until the Amsterdam games in 1928, although men had been competing since the 1896 Olympics. Today, there are eight different competitive gymnastics events, although some disciplines are still gender specific. At the Summer Olympics, only women compete in the balance beam and uneven bars, while it's men only for the parallel bars and pommel horse. Today, women's artistic gymnastics is one of the most popular Olympic disciplines.


3. Gymnast's dance prize

Former American gymnast and Olympic gold medallist Shawn Johnson won the television show, Dancing with the Stars, in 2009. The 26-year-old was a member of the gold medal-winning American gymnastics team and also the individual gold medal winner on the balance beam at the 2008 Olympics. She went on to partner professional dancer Mark Ballas and became the youngest champion in the TV show's history at that time.


4. Gymnastic toddlers

Studies show that most major gymnasts start their careers at the age of two! A study by the University of Minnesota states that as the average age of an American female Olympic gymnast is 16, a young athlete must begin at a very young age if they want to become an elite gymnast. In order to develop strength and skills and maximise training, a gymnast should start training at pre-school age. Kids aged between two and five, who begin gymnastics, will develop fundamental movement skills and gain confidence.


5. Tough sport

A study by sports blog site Total Sportek ranked gymnastics as the fourth hardest sport in the world, behind rugby, MMA and boxing. The international elite of gymnasts competing at events such as the Olympic Games and world championships, are performing increasingly difficult routines that require them to have more power and speed to keep pace and triumph over their rivals.


6. Dedication

Any youngster who aspires to become a world-class gymnast must be prepared to devote between 20 and 30 hours each week to training - almost the equivalent of having a full-time job. A potential Olympic gymnast must have outstanding abilities and physical skills by the age of 10 in order to pursue gymnastics as a career and this will be achieved only with intense training.


7. Gymnastics attire

The usual attire today for gymnasts today is made of tight-fitting lycra, which is comfortable and permits easy movement. Female competitors normally wear a leotard - a garment named after the French acrobat and trapeze artist Jules Leotard, who was born in 1842. He didn't invent the garment, but he made it popular while performing with the Cirque Napoleon. Leotards evolved over the years, from the baggy and unflattering garments worn by female gymnasts in the 1930s and '40s.


8. Sister act
British sisters Elissa and Rebecca Downie have competed together in the Olympic Games for Team GB. Elissa, aged 18 and known as Ellie, won four medals at the Summer Youth Olympics in 2014. Rebecca, aged 26 and known as Becky, competed as part of Team GB at the Summer Olympics of 2008. Both sisters went on to compete at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Becky is also the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion and double European champion in 2014 and 2016. The sisters hail from Nottingham.


9. Most medals

Simone Biles, aged 20, from Columbus, Ohio, is the most decorated US gymnast in history, having won a combined total of 19 Olympic and World Championship medals. She has won the titles of world all-round champion and world floor champion three times in a row from 2013 to 2015, world balance beam champion in 2014 and 2015 and United States national all-around champion for four consecutive years, from 2013 to 2016. Many of her peers call her the greatest gymnast ever.


10. Perfect 10

The first perfect 10 scores of modern Olympic gymnastics were awarded to Nadia Comăneci of Romania and Nellie Kim of the Soviet Union in 1976, at the Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. Comăneci was only 14 years old and scored seven perfect 10s, while Kim, who was 19, received three perfect 10s. Somewhat bizarrely, in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, 23 men scored a perfect 10 in rope climbing - an event that was later discontinued. The historic Olympic gymnastics events were vastly different from today's in terms of the disciplines.

Whether you're an aspiring young gymnast, or one of the world's elite, make sure your gym experience is safe and enjoyable by using the best equipment. Coruba's rubber gym mats are beneficial in a gym environment for workouts, cross fit sessions, gymnastics and high-intensity interval training. Contact us for further details.

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