The first depiction of gymnastics, known by historians, derives from Egyptian artefacts which date back to 2000 BC. In 800 BC gymnastics became a popular sport with the Greeks who used marked courtyards known as gymnasias for jumping, running and wrestling. With the conquest of the Romans there became more of an emphasis on military training over and above physical exercise and the wooden horse was introduced, the early version of the vaulting horse used in artistic gymnastics today.
The Romans also practised horse mounting skills during their training which accounts for the emphasis placed on the way in which a gymnast mounts and dismounts their apparatus at the beginning and end of routines. The domination of the Romans brought with it an end to the Olympic Games, causing the demise of gymnastics as a sport. It wasn’t until the 19th century that gymnastics was introduced to modern society by Johann Friedrich Gutsmuth and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, who developed a series of physical exercises designed for German schoolboys, centred around various pieces of apparatus.
In 1896 gymnastics was included as an official sport in the first modern Olympic Games although the events classified as gymnastics were far removed from the display or rhythmic gymnastics, familiar to today’s audiences and included some track and field events which are now classified as athletics. Women’s gymnastics emerged during the 1920’s, entering international competition at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. In 1954 major changes occurred in competitive gymnastics, bringing about the modern gymnastics events competed in today, as well as a series of rules and a standardized system of marking. Around that time, with the rise of televised sport, gymnastics was introduced to a much wider audience and today it is a popular and much-loved sport world wide.