History Tuesday: Uneven Bars


Marjorie Carter 1952 dismounting an unbroken bar

As far back as 1830 the French teacher Amoros wrote of “uneven” or Asymetrical” bars in his Manuel d’education physique et morale. But back then the women and the men did not participate together and women did not own the bar until long after this period. Wommen’s gymnastics was very similar to men’s gymnastics. As late as 1927 women still competed on the parallel bars as men did. Other events included horizontal bar (today called High Bar for men) horse, compulsory events without apparatus (which became floor exercise) clubs (swinging long necked bowling pin-like clubs in a dance routine which evolved into rhythmic gymnastics), the 100 meter sprint (a track event now since all track and field came from gymnastics) and the ball throw. However the uneven setting of bars first emerged around 1934 in the world championships in Budapest. The Uneven bars Olympic debut was in Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympiad. However the women had a choice between the bars or the rings. IT wasn’t until the Helsinki games of 1952 that the Uneven Bars were a set piece of competition equipment. The first ever champion with Olympic gold was the Hungarian Korondi. During the games the dynamic nature of skill development was cause for over 39 bar breaks. It took years and many rails before equipment manufacturers added fiberglass to the bars and in 1972 there were zero bar breaks during the games.


Early bar pioneers performed between bars with “beat” swings where the hips wrapped the bar and the rebound from the beat was a transition

Queen of the bars Maxi Gnauck

into another skill. Many skills were also done while standing, scales and even back handsprings were often seen.


Today gymnastics for women again is similar to men’s gymnastics in reference to bars. Many release skills are duplicated by women and the bars, now, are so far apart that the basic skill of a routine is a giant swing.  Women are required to touch both bars during their routine and without that regulation I would foresee the elimination of the low bar all together.


Here is Wisconsin’s own Chelsea Memmel in 2011. She is a World Champion on bars, here is why:



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