History of Gymnastics

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Gymnastics has existed for over 2,000 years, but its development as a competitive sport began just a little more than 100 years ago. During the 1800s, various school clubs, athletic clubs and ethnic organizations, such as the Turnvereins and Sokols conducted mass and individual exhibitions. Gymnastics did flourish in the Turnvereins and Sokols. Such immigrants as Charles Beck, Charles Follen and Francis Lieber introduced it to the United States and its school systems in the 1830s. The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) was formed in 1881, and then called the Bureau of the European Gymnastics Federation, opening the way for international competition. The first large-scale meeting of gymnasts was the 1896 Olympics.

Gymnasts from five countries competed in events that included men's horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, rings, and vault. The first international gymnastics competition outside of the Olympics was held in 1903 in Antwerp, Belgium. Gymnasts from Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands competed in what is now considered the first World Championships.

In 1930, the ninth World Championships was held at Luxembourg. At the 1924 Games in Paris, the basis of modern Olympic gymnastics competition was firmly established. The 1928 Games witnessed the debut of the first women's event, the team combined exercise, won by the Netherlands. The U.S. women first competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. USA Gymnastics became the national governing body of the sport in the United States in 1970 and remains as such today.