History of Rings
The rings, hanging on a rope and meant to swing, are relatively young in gymnastics tournaments. The former name “Roman rings” reminds of the older rope and pole swings of the artists and indicates Italian origins.

Adolf Spieß described them for the first time as “Ringeschwebel” in his “Turnlehre” (gymnastics lesson) in 1842. Eiselen, student of Jahn, introduced the swinging horizontal bar. His “rings” were triangular handles. The German gymnasts could not get along too well with the still hanging rings, development took place in the Roman and Benelux states.
Today, gymnastics at rings is the expression of a synthesis of both athletic and dynamic force…


From “flying men” on swinging rings 
to breathtaking movements between sky and earth

The roots for the uneven bars, the horizontal bar and the horse lie in Germany, whereas the German gymnasts could not get along too well with the rings…
The “Big Three” of German gymnastics history – GutsMuths, Vieth and Jahn did not know the apparatus yet. Adolf Spieß (1810-1858) is supposed to have introduced the rings as a swinging apparatus, which he called “Ringeschwebel“. In the textbook by Eiselen (1847), student of Jahn; there were pictures of rings with triangular handle (bow, triangle). The expression “bow exercises” was quite usual, too.

When tournaments in gymnastics became popular in the 19th century, the apparatus was not employed in competition exercises and was mostly used in schools. The swinging rings dominated.

That was different in the Roman and Benelux states, who were contributing to a great extent to the formation of the international gymnastics federation: They dominated the first tournaments, such as the international one in Antwerp (Belgium) in 1903, which was posthumously declared the first World Championships in history. Here the rings appeared in triangular and round forms.

In 1905 in Bordeaux and 1907 in Prague, it could neither be agreed on the swinging nor on the still hanging rings- the competitions simply did not take place.


Even after 1920 it was not common in the German gymnastics federations to use the swinging rings.
The rings were made of iron at that time and were wrapped with thread and covered with leather. However, wooden rings and rings made of wickerwork and hard rubber were also described. Multiple glued rings, usual later on, were not known yet.

RGymnastics on rings 1928
 in Nürnberg:
Hemp ropes and iron rings

The diameter of the rings was 13-15 cm, the iron ones 20mm thick, the wooden ones 25-30mm thick. “Their origins are in Italy, where they were used by artists, probably in Roman times already: therefore their name “Roman rings”. (R. Gasch, 120, “Handbuch des Turnens”)
At the VIII Olympic Games in Paris in 1924, the apparatus appeared in the Olympic programme for the first time. Rings with a relatively big diameter hang on a massive wooden trestle.
Rotation threads to put the rings on were not known yet. Finals at every apparatus were not common either, the single presentations in the all around competition counted. Francesco Martino from Italy is the first best gymnast at the rings in the Olympic protocol.

Four years later it was the Slovenian Leon Stukelj, who achieved the Gold medal and who astonished with the first “head cross” and ideal horizontal arms.

Stukelj - head cross in the Twenties


At the Olympic Games in 1936, the ropes of the rings still consisted of hemp. Actually, there were better constructions already, where the lower part of the rope was made of leather, which reduced the strain at the end of the flinging elastically; observed at a competition in Poland in 1936. When passing the vertical, powers occur which put a strain on the shoulders that is 7-8 times the weight of the body, so that this construction reduced the risk of injuries.

The steel tube trestles, which were used in the 1930ies, remained the same in looks and stays in the 1950ies, but the leather loops in the lower part were common already.

At the World Championships in Rome in 1954, the steel rope appeared for the first time in the upper part and in the middle there was an adjustable part.

In order to reduce the sideward swinging of the rectangular trestle, the German apparatus constructer Richard Reuther introduced the inward inclining vertical supports in 1956. Consequently, the bar at the top was only half as long, which reduced the disturbing horizontal swinging. However, it took until the mid 1960ies till the Reuther system got through. In the 1970ies, wood in layers (glued) was prescribed in the norm book instead of the hard wooden rings and instead of a maximum load of 250 kilogram weight (1965), the FIG prescribed 400 kilogram weight ten years later, which could not be changed in form.


World Champion 1954 and 1958:
 Albert Asarjan (URS)

Modern apparatus at the World Championships in Ghent 2001

Gymnastics at this apparatus, former characterized by mainly structural and power elements, had developed to dynamic gymnastics at rings, which was full of drive:

Woronin 1966

Breathtaking switches between the athletic power elements and fast swing techniques began to appear after the introduction of the giant circles with stretched arms, which are also called “Woronin circles”, due to their inventor Michael Woronin. Those techniques led to dismount difficulties, which were considered to be impossible until that time. Starting with the first double stooping somersault backward by Eberhard Gienger at the European Championships in 1971 and the double somersault forward by the Polish Andrzej Szajna two years later in Grenoble, continuing with a stretched double somersault by Nikolai Andrianov at the World Cup in Oviedo (1977), leading to the first triple somersault by the European Champion at rings Juri Korolyov in Rome in 1981…!

After the gymnast of the century Juri Chechi – fivefold World Champion and double Olympic Champion at rings in the 1990ies - athletes like the Greek Dimosthenes Tambakos, the Bulgarian Jordan Jovtschev or the World and Olympic Champion Szilvester Csollany are leading.

<<<  At the World Championships in Ghent the J&F High-capacity rings trestle “Barcelona” will be used. The “Barcelona” trestle is FIG-qualified and equipped with innovative and patented damping elements, which reduce strain tops to a large extent.


Sources/Quellen: "Der Vorturner", 1927/28; "Das Turnjahrhundert der Deutschen", Götze/Herholz: Beckmanns Sportlexikon A-Z, Leipzig, Wien 1933; "Deutsche Turnzeitung", 1901; "Neue deutsche Turnzeitung", 1961, J. Leirich; "Geschichte der Turngeräte", J. Göhler/R. Spieth; "Mondsalto", gymbooks Verlag 1994, A. Götze/J. Uhr; "FlickFlack...", Sportverlag Berlin, A .Götze/H.-J. Zeume; "The History of British Gymnastics", 1988 by BAGA.