The history of gymnastics can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece where gymnastics exercises were used to prepare for war, and eventually became a central component of ancient Greek education. Gymnastics rose in popularity among the ancient Greeks until the Roman Emperor abolished the ancient Olympic Games, and many sports (including gymnastics) dropped off the radar.
The sport experienced a rebirth in the 19th century when two physical educators developed exercises on stationary apparatus to improve self-discipline and body strength. One of these educators, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, is often referred to as the “father of gymnastics”. The sport expanded internationally with the founding of the FIG (Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique) in 1881; subsequently, competitive gymnastics emerged on the world stage with the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and the first Gymnastics World Championships in 1903.
At the start of the 20th century, gymnastics competitions were limited to men only. Women first participated in the Olympic Games in 1928 in “synchronized calisthenics”, which was a team event; women would not be allowed to compete as individuals until the 1952 Games in Helsinki.
The events of gymnastics competitions were continually changing and evolving through the first half of the 1900s, and included events such as rope climbing, high jump, and the horizontal ladder. By 1954, a uniform scoring structure was introduced, and both men’s and women’s events were standardized to include the same apparatus used in competition today.
The sport of gymnastics has continued to grow in Canada, and is now one of the largest participatory activities in the country. It is now officially recognized by Sport Canada as a fundamental sport that teaches basic movement skills, and therefore provides a solid base for all other sports. Specifically, gymnastics teaches and develops the ABCs of athleticism: agility, balance, coordination, speed. It has been a part of the Canada Games since the inaugural games in 1967 in Quebec City.