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15 Gymnastics Facts To Flex Your Noodle

Find out more about gymnastics - an ancient sport loved by naked Greeks, the USSR and... you! Let's limber up and flip out at these 15 spine-bending sports facts!

Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  November 30th 2023

Gymnastics is one of the hardest, oldest and most entertaining sports! It's a mix of a whole load of skills and it's loved the world over - because there's nothing more exciting than watching people launch themselves around! Whether you're just a huge fan of Simone Biles or are a budding gymnast yourself, there's a lot to be learnt about this bendy, spinny, springy sport! Read on and see for yourself!

If you're after some other sporty facts, check out these Brazilian football facts, these Wimbledon facts, or even these unusual sports facts! Enjoy!

1. What actually is gymnastics?

Let's clear up a few things before we start! Gymnastics is a huge area of sport that involves... ahem... "balance, strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, artistry and endurance." There are official groups that regulate it, but if what you're doing involves some of those things - then you can call it gymnastics! Traditionally gymnasts use things like pommel horses, rings, bars and all that - but that leap-frogging thing you do? Or jumping out at your mates from behind a bush? That can be gymnastics too if you want it to be!

2. It's all Greek to me!

Like lots of things, gymnastics started in Ancient Greece. It probably came from a exercises Greeks used to do when getting on and off horses, and just kind of grew from there. Later, it was used as a way of training men up to be soldiers. The Greeks were very into physical fitness, and respected it just as much as being brainy.

3. They used to do WHAT?!

Back in Ancient Greece they used to do gymnastics naked! In fact, gymnastics comes from the Greek word for "exercise naked". That was just how it was done, and it would have been weird to wear clothes. They also didn't allow women to do it in the earliest Olympic games, so gymnastics back then were mostly just naked blokes jumping around!

4. Ancient Gymnastics

Whilst the Greeks have the earliest records, there's lots of evidence of ancient gymnasts doing there thing all over the world. Gymnastics was popular in Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, and you can bet early Britons probably liked swinging about and balancing on logs. Until...

5. Middle Ages = Sad time for gymnastics

In Europe at least, gymnastics dropped right off during the Middle Ages. This is because monks back then preferred to just pray and think about God, and the idea of jumping around and having fun was somehow not a serious activity for strict Christian Europe.

6. Gymnastics bounces back!

Gymnastics as we know and love it today was kick-started by a beardy German guy called Friedrich Ludwig Jahn. His plan was to strengthen the bodies of young Germans with gymnastics so they could fight off Napoleon better. He's often called the Father of modern gymnastics!

7. Gymnastics at the Olympics

Gymnastics are one of the most amazing sports to watch at the Olympics. Artistic gymnastics has been at the Olympics since the modern ones began in the 1800s - men can compete in artistic gymnastics in floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar. Women can compete on the vault, the uneven bars, the balance beam, and on floor exercise. So a bit different! But this may change in future so watch this space!

8. Some gymnasts are really young

Gymnastics is really popular with kids, and all the pros start when they're young. For a long time, kids under 16 could even compete in the Olympics in gymnastics, but now there's an age limit of 16. This is because competing professionally can be dangerous. Others say it's a waste of young talent to make them wait though - what do you think?

9. The perfect 10

The way Olympic gymnastics used to be scored, a perfect 10 was supposed to be impossible. But then alongcame 14 year old Nadia Comaneci from Romania in 1976, who scored a perfect 10/10 for her incredible uneven bars routine! Since then only a tiny number of gymnasts have got that perfect 10.

10. The Soviets Were The Best

...At gymnastics, at least! The Soviet Union holds 184 Olympic Medals in gymnastics. This includes both men’s and women’s competitions since 1896. The United States has the second most Olympic medals in gymnastics, with 101. Even if the US took all the medals ever Olympics, it would still take a long time to catch up with the Soviet Union - which hasnt existed for decades!

11. No more perfect 10s!

Nowadays, they've changed the scoring system for gymnastics so getting that much-wanted perfect 10 is actually impossoble again! Of course you can score very very highly, but this is supposed to make the scoring more fair. And remember, what makes a gymnastics legend isn't just the scoresheet - it's the flair and sportspersonship on and off the horse!

12. The gymnastics GOAT

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Has got to be Simone Biles! She is the most decorated gymnast in history, with the ninth-most Olympic medla of all time and tied with Shannon Miller for the most by a U.S. gymnast. She has won more Gymnastics World Championships medals than anyone else: a huge 30 (mostly gold). Greatest of all time? We think so!

13. Do the Biles!

Simone is so good she's even had gymnastics moves named after her! In fact, 4 of them! There's the Biles, which is a double layout with a half twist. To do it you flip twice in the air, before landing and adding a half twist. The Biles II is even more complicated - and let's not even get started on her balance beam moves!

14. Gymnastics is really hard

This seems like an obvious point but it's worth remembereing as we come towards the end of this list. Lots of sports are hard, but gymnastics is often ranked by experts the hardest. Especially during big events like the Olympics, gymnasts perform super challenging routines. These routines need a lot of power. There's hardly any other sport that covers overall body fitness like gymnastics does - it works on strength, flexibility, and toughness all at once.

15. Gymnastics aint going anywhere!

Gymnastics is a sport with thousands of years of history, and it's one that's more popular than ever! It always draws huge crowds at the olympics, and gymnasts like Simone Biles are always improving - and changing the game to keep it up to date and feeling fresh. Here's to the next 2 and a half thousand years!