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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March 2004, 18:55 GMT
Through the rings of history
China's Wei Yang
The pommel horse is one of six apparatus in artistic gymnastics
Gymnastics is among the oldest Olympic sports, dating back to ancient times as well as the first modern Games in 1896.

The term "gymnastics" derives from the Greek word "gymnos", meaning naked, and the sport in its modern form evolved during the 19th century.

Two styles of gymnastics were in conflict - the Swedish and German systems - with German Frederick-Ludwig Khan introducing parallel bars and the horizontal bar to what had been a floor-based event.

These days, gymnastics as an Olympic sport is split into three disciplines; artistic, rhythmic and trampoline.

The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (Fig) was founded in 1881, and men's artistic gymnastics was included for the first time in the 1896 Olympic Games, with women joining in 1928.

In 1936, individual apparatus events for men began to resemble today's Olympic programme, and a four-apparatus programme for women was introduced at the 1952 Olympic Games.

Nicolaos Andriakopoulos won a gold medal for Greece in rope climbing at the Athens Games of 1896
The high-point for the sport came in the 1970s, when Russian Olga Korbut made a huge impact at Munich 1972 and Nadia Comaneci scored the first perfect 10.00 in Montreal four years later.

Russia remains the powerhouse nation of artistic gymnastics, although China, Romania and Spain regularly win medals.

As a competitive discipline, rhythmic gymnastics began in the former Soviet Union in the 1940s before the Fig recognised the new discipline in 1961.

It was introduced into the Olympics in 1984 and the first group competition was introduced 12 years later at the Atlanta Games.

As with the artistic discipline, Russia dominates in rhythmic gymnastics, although Spain almost took a clean sweep of gold medals in Atlanta.

Trampolining dates back to 1800 but did not spread widely for the best part of a century.

The sport really took off when the International Trampoline Federation merged with the International Gymnastics Federation in 1999.

Trampoline was introduced at the Sydney Olympic Games for the first time and again it was Russia who won both the men's and women's gold medals.

MEDAL TABLE (Top five)
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Men (since 1896)
Soviet Union 45 42 19 106
Japan 27 28 30 85
USA 22 17 19 58
Switzerland 15 19 13 47
Italy 13 7 9 29
Women (since 1928)
Soviet Union 38 30 30 98
Romania 18 15 19 52
Czechoslovakia 9 6 1 16
Hungary 7 6 10 23
Russia 7 5 4 16

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