Early Gymnastics Competitions

Men’s Competitions

Gymnastics was a competitive sport at the turn of the century.  Men’s Olympic competition started in 1896.  The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) started holding National Championships in 1897.

Gymnasts usually came from:
  •          YMCA clubs.
  •          Turner clubs.
  •          Some athletic clubs.
  •          A few colleges.

Women’s Competitions

In 1931 the AAU started to hold national gymnastics championships for women.  In 1936, women gymnasts competed for the first time in the Olympics.  But gymnastics was very different than it is now.  The routines were a lot less physical.  Some of the rules from 1941 point this out:

  1. Gymnastics for women should include elements of skill, grace, and rhythm, rather than strength. 
  2. The physique of women should determine the nature of the movements.
  3. Health shall be protected.
  4. Competition shall proceed in accordance with the best social standards.
  5. Gymnastics for women shall be taught and competition conducted by well-qualified women.
What events were there in these early years?

For men the events were:
  • Free Calisthenics.
  • Side Horse.
  • Long Horse.
  • Flying Rings.
  • Parallel Bars.
  • Horizontal Bar.
  • Tumbling.
  • Rope Climb.
  • Indian Clubs.

For women the events were:
  • Parallel Bars.
  • Balance Beam.
  • Flying Rings.
  • Indian Clubs.
  • Side Horse Vault.
  • Team Event.

How did YMCA gymnasts fare during these years?

Many YMCA gymnasts hold National Titles from 1897 to 1940.  Joseph Oszy from the West Side NY YMCA was probably the most successful gymnast of that time, becoming AAU U.S. National Champion in 1918 and 1920.  He was the coach of the U.S. Olympic Men’s team in 1936.