As one of the oldest Olympic sports, contested since the first modern Games at Athens 1896, gymnastics is always one of the most highly anticipated sports for fans to watch during the summer Games.
With Rio 2016 just around the corner, let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit some of the more unforgettable Olympic gymnastics moments:
Kyle Shewfelt is Canada’s golden boy thanks to his performance at Athens 2004. When Shewfelt completed a nearly flawless floor exercise routine, he made Canadian history by becoming the country’s first Olympic medallist in artistic gymnastics. It was also Canada’s first gold medal of the 2004 Games. A three-time Olympian, Shewfelt is still the most decorated Canadian artistic gymnast of all time.
Despite the sport making it’s Olympic debut relatively recently at Sydney 2000, Canadians have already left a lasting impression in trampoline, thanks to formidable quartet. It was Rosie MacLennan who captured all the headlines with Canada’s only gold medal of London 2012, but she made it four straight Games at which Canada had been on the women’s trampoline podium following Karen Cockburn‘s bronze in Sydney and silvers at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. In her first outing, her now-husband Mathieu Turgeon also won bronze while Jason Burnett added a silver in Beijing.
Lori Fung stunned the world when she won the first ever Olympic gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics at Los Angeles 1984. She’d gone to the Games after placing 23rd at the world championships a year earlier. But while others struggled with their apparatus, it was Fung who was able to put together four solid routines to defeat pre-Olympic favourite Doina Staiculescu, with whom she had trained in Romania, by just 0.05.
The Perfect 10
Nadia Comaneci is one of the most recognizable names in not only gymnastics, but Olympic history, thanks to her remarkable performances at Montreal 1976. The 14-year-old Romanian became the first gymnast to ever earn a perfect score of 10.0 at the Olympic Games, doing so on her compulsory uneven bars routine. The scoreboards were not equipped to handle two digits ahead of the decimal so her record-setting score was posted as 1.00. By the end of the Games, Comaneci had earned seven perfect 10s and five medals, including three gold.
Nothing But Perfection
At Seoul 1988, Marina Lobatch of the Soviet Union, who had never finished on the podium at a major international competition, stunned the world by scoring a perfect 10.0 on all four apparatus in both the qualifying round and the final. Still, she only won the all-around gold by 0.05 and nearly lost it when she came close to exceeding the time limit in her clubs routine. Fortunately, her pianist began player faster towards the end, allowing her to finish just in time.
Injured Ankle? No Problem!
Kerri Strug will forever be an American Olympic hero for her perseverance at Atlanta 1996. As the team competition was coming to a close, Strug was the final competitor on vault. On her first of two attempts, she fell and injured her ankle. Knowing her team needed a strong score to win gold, she went for her second vault and stuck it before quickly hopping onto one foot and then collapsing to the mat. Wearing a soft cast, she had to be carried to the medal podium by coach Bela Karolyi and was later diagnosed with a third-degree lateral ankle sprain and two torn ligaments. It was the first ever team gold in artistic gymnastics for the American women.
The New ‘It’ Girl
At London 2012, the “Fierce 5” (Americans Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney) dazzled audiences with each passing routine, easily winning the team gold medal by more than five points. But while Maroney became best known as a meme for being unimpressed with her individual silver, it was Douglas who rose to superstardom with her victory in the individual all-around, becoming the first African-American to win that gold medal at an Olympic Games.