Olympic gymnastics through the years

Tokyo, 2020 

The Tokyo Games showcased extraordinary athleticism and resilience despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately delayed the start of the Games by a year. 

One of the biggest headlines was the absence of American Simone Biles, who entered Tokyo as a fan-favorite with twenty five-time world medals and five Olympic medals to her name. Biles withdrew from several events following the first rotation of the team final, citing mental health concerns, but returned just in time to secure a bronze medal on the balance beam on the final day of competition. With Biles' absence came opportunities for new stars to emerge. Sunisa Lee won the gold in the women's all-around — becoming the fifth consecutive American to claim the title — in addition to finishing third on the uneven bars. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil won the all-around silver — the first time a Brazilian woman had ever stood on the Olympic medal podium. Just a day later, Andrade made history for her country once again with a gold medal on vault, topping the American MyKayla Skinner who took home the silver. Despite American Jade Carey not having her best showing in the all-around or vault finals (she finished eighth in both), she rallied to win gold on the floor exercise on the final day of competition. In the team competition, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) won the gold medal, ending the United States chance for three consecutive team gold medals. Great Britain won the bronze medal — its first Olympic medal in 93 years. 

In the men's competition, the ROC brought home the gold medal in the team competition. Japan finished second, with Daiki Hashimoto proving to be the leader of the next generation of Japanese gymnastics. Hashimoto solidified Japan's third consecutive gold in the all-around competition, as well as winning a gold medal on the high bar. 

Rio, 2016 

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura won his second men’s individual all-around final by a tenth of a point over Oleg Verniaiev from Ukraine. Uchimura joined fellow Japanese gymnast Sawao Kato as the only winners of three individual all-around medals. The U.S. men had a strong showing in the team qualification, placing second behind Japan, but were unable to carry that into the final where they placed fifth. Japan secured the all-around gold, followed by Russia and China who won the silver and bronze, respectively.

Romania, which had earned a team medal every Olympic Games since 1976, ended its streak after failing to qualify for the 2016 Games. The U.S. women — now known as the “Final Five” — won team gold for the second consecutive Games, and with an eight-point lead of the second place Russians. China took third. The U.S.’ Simone Biles made her debut on the Olympic stage with dominance, winning four golds and one bronze medal. Aly Raisman joined her on the podium for the U.S., winning silver in the individual all-around and silver on floor exercise. She became the second-most decorated American Olympic gymnast with six medals behind only Shannon Miller. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina finished in third for the individual all-around bronze.

Simone Biles and Aly Raisman celebrate after winning the gold and silver medal, respectively, at the 2016 Rio Games.
Simone Biles and Aly Raisman went 1-2 on the podium during the women's all-around final at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

London, 2012 

After winning a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships and earning the top team score in the qualifying round, the U.S. men's team seemed assured of a spot on the podium at the London Olympics. Error-ridden performances left the Americans in fifth place. The Chinese men won their second straight team gold, and as the competition came to an end, Great Britain and Ukraine were in silver and bronze medal position. But Japan, in fourth place after Kohei Uchimura botched his dismount off the pommel horse, filed a protest appealing Uchimura's score. The appeal was accepted and Japan was moved up to second place. Great Britain received bronze, their first team medal in gymnastics in 100 years, and Ukraine was pushed off the podium. Uchimura also claimed the gold medal in the men's all-around, followed by Germany's Marcel Nguyen and USA’s Danell Leyva.

The U.S. women — soon to be known as the "Fierce Five" — decisively won team gold, the first American team to do so since the "Magnificent Seven" in 1996. America’s Gabby Douglas became the first African American and the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in both the individual and team all-around in the same competition. Russia’s Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina won the all-around gold and silver, respectively. American Aly Raisman, who also competed in the all-around final, tied for third place with Mustafina, but lost the tiebreaker and landed in fourth. In the event finals, Raisman earned a gold medal on floor exercise and a bronze medal on balance beam.

Beijing, 2008 

American Nastia Liukin claimed all-around gold ahead of her teammate Shawn Johnson, who narrowly edged China's Yang Yilin for silver. Liukin became the third American woman to win Olympic all-around gold, in addition to Liukin and Johnson becoming the first American women to go 1-2 in the all-around. Liukin tied the U.S. gymnastics record of five medals at one Olympics set by Mary Lou Retton (1984) and Shannon Miller (1992). Johnson picked up four total medals, including gold on the balance beam. In the team competition, the U.S. women struggled and finished second behind host-country China by more than two points.

Host country China was dominant in gymnastics, picking up the men's and women's team titles, plus the men's all-around gold won by Yang Wei. Nine of China's 14 gymnastics medals were gold, including six of seven individual men's gold medals up for grabs (all but vault). Maybe the most controversial gold was that won by He Kexin in the women's uneven bars finals against American Nastia Liukin. Liukin and He earned the same amount of points, but He won gold due to a complex tie-breaking rule.

Considered underdogs after falling off the podium at the world championships preceding the Olympics and finishing sixth in qualifying in Beijing, the United States men won a surprise team bronze medal. Forced to use alternates when 2004 Olympic all-around champion Paul Hamm and his twin, Morgan, suffered pre-Games injuries, the Americans held off Germany to win the team bronze medal.

Athens, 2004 

Once a men's gymnastics dynasty, winning five straight Olympic team titles from 1960-1976, Japan decisively reclaimed gold by finishing nearly a full point ahead of the United States. The silver was America's first medal in the team event since 1984 and the first at a fully-attended Olympics since 1932.

In the all-around final, Wisconsin's Paul Hamm made a big comeback as he sat in 12th place with two events to go, and rose to Olympic gold when all was said and done, although not without controversy. Hamm, the first American to win an Olympic men's all-around title, outscored South Korea's Kim Dae-Eun by .012 points in the event's closest-ever finish. The bronze medalist, South Korean Yang Tae-Young, claimed a scoring error on his parallel bars routine cost him the victory, and although officials acknowledged a mistake, they did not overturn the final results. In October 2004, the Court of Arbitration for Sport denied Yang's appeal; his bronze and Kim's silver were the first Olympic all-around medals for South Korea.

Carly Patterson became just the second American woman to win Olympic all-around gold and the first since Mary Lou Retton 20 years earlier. The 16-year-old from Texas defeated three-time world champion Svetlana Khorkina of Russia, who finally won an Olympic all-around medal, a silver, in her third Olympics. At 25, Khorkina was the event's oldest medalist since Vera Caslavska won gold at age 26 at the 1968 Mexico City Games. By finishing with the bronze, Zhang Nan earned China's second-ever Olympic medal in the women's all-around. For the first time since 1972, Romania was shut out.

Paul Hamm competes during the pommel horse final during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
Paul Hamm won the gold medal in the men's all-around final at the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Sydney, 2000 

The women's all-around in Sydney seemed cursed. First, the vault apparatus was set incorrectly — nearly 2 inches too low — causing a string of crashes before the mistake was noticed. Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina, a 5-foot-5 giant in the sport, landed on her knees, and American champion Elise Ray fell on both of her vaults. Khorkina declined a do-over offer after also falling from the uneven bars and ultimately placed 10th. Meanwhile, the all-around winner — Andreea Raducan of Romania — tested positive for a banned substance and was stripped of her gold. Raducan claimed that a team doctor had given her a common, over-the-counter cold medicine containing the banned substance pseudoephedrine. The gold medal was awarded to her Romanian teammate, Simona Amanar

Atlanta, 1996 

In Atlanta, with a solid lead entering the final rotation — vault — the American women seemed poised to capture the nation's first women's team title in Olympic history. But on vault, Dominique Moceanu made two mistakes, and with the second-place Russians still performing on floor, Team USA appeared to need a solid score from Kerri Strug to clinch the victory (four of a team's five scores counted). On her first vault, Strug missed her landing and severely injured her left ankle. The 18-year-old from Tucson, Ariz. went back out and stuck her landing almost entirely on one foot before collapsing in pain. With her ankle in a soft cast, she was carried onto the gold-medal stand. Though the U.S. ultimately would have won without Strug's heroics, the gutsy performance made her a national star.

Barcelona, 1992 

Vitaly Scherbo, a native of Belarus representing the Unified Team, arrived in Spain having made a bold promise to his mother: that he would win three gold medals in Barcelona. But he was twice as good as his promise. After leading the Unified Team to the team title and winning the all-around crown, Scherbo won four event finals on the same night — parallel bars, vault, rings, and pommel horse — and became the first gymnast ever to earn six golds at a single Games. Late in 1995, Scherbo's wife was severely injured in a car crash, a personal setback that also threatened his gymnastics career. But in 1996, he returned to win four bronze medals at the Atlanta Games.

Seoul, 1988 

Coming into Seoul, Vladimir Artemov of the Soviet Union became known as the "permanent runner-up" for repeatedly finishing second at major competitions. But in Seoul, Artemov stepped it up, winning the all-around title and adding golds on parallel bars, high bar and in the team event, to go along with the silver on floor. His performance overshadowed that of teammate Dmitry Bilozerchev, who had overcome a shattered leg to win the 1987 world all-around title. In Seoul, Bilozerchev took the all-around bronze and tied for the gold on rings and pommel horse.

Los Angeles, 1984

Vera Caslavska, Olga Korbut, Nadia Comaneci — the U.S. had never produced a gymnastics star like that, much less won any individual medal in women's Olympic competition. Then came Mary Lou Retton, a wide-smiling 16-year-old born in a West Virginia coal mining town. In her first major international competition, Retton became the face of the Los Angeles Games after rallying with a pair of 10s in her last two events to pass Romanian Ecaterina Szabo for the all-around title. Retton, with four other medals (two silvers, two bronzes), joined the list of famous athletes to grace the cover of a Wheaties cereal box.

Three members of the U.S. men's gymnastics team (Peter Vidmar, Mitch Gaylord, Tim Daggett) competed in their home arena, UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. Joined by Bart Conner, James Hartung and Scott Johnson, they won the team gold medal in a major upset over the world champion Chinese team. It was the first and only time the U.S. men have won a gold medal in the team competition at the Games. In addition to the men's team medal, the men won several individual medals: Vidmar's silver in the all-around and gold on pommel horse; Conner's gold on parallel bars; Gaylord's silver on vault and bronzes on rings and parallel bars; and Daggett's bronze on pommel horse.

Moscow, 1980 

Charges of favoritism in the scoring of subjective events had long been part of the Games. Among the most notable cases is the women's all-around final in Moscow, where defending champion Nadia Comaneci of Romania needed a 9.90 on balance beam to tie Soviet Yelena Davydova for gold. After delivering a near-flawless routine, she waited for half an hour as the judges bickered and ultimately produced a score of 9.85 — thanks to 9.8s from the Soviet and Polish judges. The silver was among four medals Comaneci won at the 1980 Games. In 1989, she defected to the United States and eventually married fellow gymnast Bart Conner, a 1984 gold medalist.

Montreal, 1976 

Japan's Mitsuo Tsukahara made a mark on gymnastics history with his vaulting style. He was the first to perform the vault sideways, starting with a cartwheel, hitting the horse in the middle of the move, and springing off into a back-flip. The move was considered daring when he first performed it, but it became so commonplace as to be included in women's compulsories. Going into Montreal, Tsukahara already had four medals to his name. He added five more: two golds (high bar, team), a silver (vault) and two bronzes (all-around and parallel bars).

The two Soviets who had dominated in Munich — all-around winner Lyudmila Turishcheva and multiple-medalist Olga Korbut — were due for some disappointment in Canada. There, a new gymnastics darling emerged: 14-year-old Romanian Nadia Comaneci. Though lacking Korbut's charisma, Comaneci made up for that by becoming the first gymnast ever to score a 10.0 at the Olympic Games — gymnastics perfection. Scoreboard designers clearly didn't see this coming, as they only left room for three digits, leaving them to post 1.00 when the judges' decision came through. Comaneci racked up a total of seven 10s en route to five medals, including the all-around gold.

Munich, 1972 

A captivating performance by a 4-foot-11 Soviet cemented women's gymnastics as one of the most popular Olympic sports, particularly for television audiences. Olga Korbut, 17, became the first gymnast to ever perform a backward flip on the uneven bars (Korbut stood on the high bar, performed a back flip and re-grasped the high bar), as well as a backward somersault on the balance beam. Korbut left Munich with individual gold medals on balance beam and floor, a gold medal with the Soviet team, plus a silver on uneven bars. Several falls on uneven bars ended her chances of a medal in the all-around competition. 

The Japanese men were going strong since 1956, when they took silver in the team event. A streak of five straight team golds (1960-1976) ended when the nation boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games. In Munich, 5-foot-3 Sawao Kato led a Japanese sweep of the men's all-around and parallel bars; Japan also went 1-2-3-4-5 on high bar. In all, Japan won 16 of the 24 men's gymnastics medals awarded in Munich. Kato, who defended his all-around title in Munich, added silver in 1976 to become the only man with three all-around medals at the time. Japan’s Kohei Uchimura joined him with a third all-around medal of his own in 2016 at Rio. 

Mexico City, 1968 

Four years after winning all-around gold in Tokyo, Vera Caslavska publicly rejected Soviet involvement in her native Czechoslovakia. When the Soviets invaded to crush the Prague Spring, she fled her training camp to avoid arrest and hid in a small town. She kept in shape by swinging from tree limbs. After three weeks in hiding, she joined her team in Mexico City, where she won six medals (four golds, two silvers) and was embraced by fans — her floor exercise to the tune of "The Mexican Hat Dance" was a particular crowd-pleaser. The shadow of politics was never far away: Caslavska shared floor exercise gold with Soviet Larisa Petrik, and was said to have bowed her head during the Soviet anthem. Back home, the Communist government made her personal and professional life difficult for more than 20 years. She later served as president of the Czech National Olympic Committee and a member of the IOC. With seven individual golds, Caslavska holds the record for most individual Olympic gold medals won by a female gymnast. 

Tokyo, 1964 

The Soviet Union's Larisa Latynina added the last six of her record 18 Olympic medals, but was defeated in the all-around by Czechoslovakia's Vera Caslavska, a 22-year old secretary from Prague. Caslavska returned home with four medals: three golds and one silver. 

Larisa Latynina leaps during her floor exercise routine at the 1960 Olympic Games.
After winning four gold medals at the 1956 Melbourne Games, Larisa Latynina went on to win five more: three during the 1960 Games in Rome and two at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
Central Press/Getty Images

Rome, 1960 

Orphaned at age 12 and raised by his grandmother, Ukrainian gymnast Boris Shakhlin became one of the most decorated Olympians ever. A two-time gold medalist in 1956, he dominated the 1960 competition. With Rome's ancient Caracalla Baths restored as a stunning backdrop, Shakhlin hauled in seven more medals, including four golds (all-around among them). In 1964, he returned to earn silver in the all-around. With his steely physique and resolve, Shakhlin is nicknamed the "Man of Iron."

Melbourne, 1956 

Less than a month before the Melbourne Games, Soviet forces rolled into Hungary to crush an uprising. Two gymnasts became unwitting proxies for the conflict: Soviet Larisa Latynina and Hungarian Agnes Keleti, who combined to win all of the individual women's events, even tied for gold on floor. Latynina took six medals (four golds, one silver, one bronze); Keleti, a 35-year-old Jew whose parents perished at Auschwitz, won four gold and two silver medals. Upon conclusion of the Melbourne Games, she defected to the West. Latynina went on to become the most decorated Olympic gymnast in history, with 18 total medals earned in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

Helsinki, 1952 

The Soviet Union made its foray into the Olympics in Helsinki, and was an instant success in gymnastics. Its men and women swept the team events, and two natives of Ukraine won the all-around titles: Viktor Chukarin, who finished with four gold and two silver medals, and Maria Gorokhovskaya, whose seven-medal tally (two golds, five silvers) remains the single-Games record for women in gymnastics (today, only six events are contested).

London, 1948 

The 1948 gymnastics event needed to be moved indoors because of rain at Wembley Stadium. The arena wasn't ideally designed for judges to have the same views of a routine. This further complicated a competition in which, as the official report notes, "there were differences of opinion on the value to be placed on any particular movement." Still, it is unclear why one befuddled judge awarded a 13.1 — on a scale of 1-10 — to a gymnast in the women's competition.

Shortly before the gymnastics competition, Czechoslovakian gymnast Eliska Misakova, 22, became gravely ill and was hospitalized. She died of infantile paralysis the day of the women's team competition. With Eliska's sister, Miloslava, contributing the team's second highest individual score, Czechoslovakia won gold. A black ribbon was attached to the Czech flag when it was raised at the medal ceremony.

Berlin, 1936 

German gymnasts Konrad Frey and Alfred Schwarzmann each won three gold medals in Berlin. Both survived World War II, after which Schwarzmann, a baker from Nuremberg, earned a silver medal on high bar in Helsinki at age 40.

Los Angeles, 1932 

In Los Angeles, Romeo Neri led Italy to the men's team title and was also crowned the all-around champion. A stadium in Rimini, Italy, is later named after him. Also in L.A., the rope climbing gold went to Raymond Bass, who later became a submarine commander in World War II.

Paris, 1924 

At the Paris Games, Czechoslovakia led the gymnastics standings with nine medals, ahead of Switzerland (seven) and France (six). The all-around champion was a lawyer-to-be from Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia), Leon Stukelj. Famous for his longevity, Stukelj won silver on rings at the 1936 Games at age 37, then incorporated gymnastics into a strict exercise regimen to which he adhered well into his nineties. Stukelj died in 1999, four days shy of his 101st birthday.

Stockholm, 1912

Growing up in Modena, Italy, Alberto Braglia had taught himself gymnastics in a barn. In 1908, he stepped away from his job at a tobacco factory to win all-around gold at the London Games. Soon thereafter, he was declared a professional for earning money as "The Bullet Man" (or, as posters read, "The Human Torpedo"), stunt work that once led to a broken shoulder and ribs. His amateur status ultimately restored, Braglia defended his title in Stockholm. He then took to the circus, once performing for the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, before returning to the Games as coach of the victorious Italian men's team in 1932.

Athens, 1896

The earliest years of Olympics gymnastics competition featured a variety of events, many of which were later discontinued. Rope climbing joined such current standards as parallel bars and vault on the original program. Club swinging appeared in 1904 and 1932. In Athens, Germany won five of the eight competitions, host Greece celebrated two champions, and a Swiss gymnast prevailed on pommel horse.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has the most gold medals in Olympic gymnastics history?

Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union has the most Olympic gold medals in gymnastics — man or woman — with nine of her 18 Olympic medals being gold. 

How many Olympics has Team USA won in gymnastics?

On the women's side, Team USA has won the gold medal in the team competition three times (1996, 2012 and 2016). On the men's side, Team USA has only won the gold medal once (1984). 

How many gold medals does Simone Biles have?

Heading into the Paris Olympics, Simone Biles has four Olympic gold medals — all from the 2016 Rio Olympics. In Rio, Biles won a gold medal in the team competition, as well as in the all-around, vault and floor. Biles has seven Olympic medals total. 

Who are the most decorated gymnasts in Olympic history?

Nikolai Andrianov of the Soviet Union is the most decorated male gymnast with 15 Olympic medals. On the women's side, Larisa Latynina, also of the Soviet Union, holds the record with 18 Olympic medals. 

Olympic medal leaders (men)
Rank Name Total


Nikolai Andrianov - Soviet Union



Boris Shakhlin - Soviet Union



Takashi Ono - Japan



Sawao Kato - Japan



Alexei Nemov - Russia 



Viktor Chukarin - Soviet Union



Vitaly Scherbo - Belarus/Unified Team 



Akinori Nakayama - Japan



Alexander Dityatin - Soviet Union



Mitsuo Tsukahara - Japan


  Eizo Kenmotsu - Japan


  Mikhail Voronin - Soviet Union


  Heikki Savolainen - Finland


  Yuri Titov - Soviet Union



Olympic medal leaders (women)
Rank Name Total


Larisa Latynina - Soviet Union



Vera Caslavska - Czechoslovakia



Agnes Keleti - Hungary



Polina Astakhova - Soviet Union



Nadia Comaneci - Romania 



Ludmilla Tourischeva - Soviet Union



Margit Korondi - Hungary



Sofia Muratova - Soviet Union



Simone Biles - United States



Simona Amanar - Romania 



Maria Gorokhovskaya - Soviet Union



Svetlana Khorkina - Russia 



Karin Buttner-Janz - East Germany



Shannon Miller - United States 



Aliya Mustafina - Russia