History of Vault, men (I)
For a long time there was no specific apparatus for vault. In it’s place the pommel horse was simply set  up lengthwise and used for competitions. 
At the first modern Olympics, held in Athens in 1896, vault was a separate discipline won by German Carl Schuhmann from Charlottenburg (Berlin). Seven years later at the first world championships in Antwerp, Belgium, a straddle through over the “long horse” was one of many compulsory routines.


From the wooden workhorse to the "PEGASES"
Gymnasts put vaulting horse in stable

 - from Eckhard Herholz, Berlin   

Josef Stoffel was quite amazed: “ This is really something – I wish I were 50 years younger,” said the 73-year-old from Luxembourg while admiring the Pegases, a futuristic looking high-tech vaulting apparatus which will be used for the first time at the next world championships. Stoffel represented Luxembourg at five Olympics between 1948 and 1964 and was the first vice-European champion on vault in history (Paris 1955) when, incidentally, German Adalbert Dickhut took the gold.

The Pegases vaulting table, created by Dutch apparatus manufacturers Janssen & Fritsen was presented to an ecstatic sell-out crowd of 10.000 by some of gymnastics greatest stars during Europe’s largest “GYM-Gala” in the Sports Palace in Antwerp, host of the 1920 Olympics.

Josef Stoffel  is a 5times Olympian from 1948 to 1964 and Vice European Champion 1955
Josef Stoffel (73) in Antwerpen


Nemov in action to the GYM Gala 2000 in Antwerp /Belgium
Nemov to the GYM Gala 2000

Russian Olympic champions Elena Zamolodchikova, Alexei Nemov, Svetlana Khorkina and others catapulted themselves over the new prop, which marks a small innovative revolution. Alexei Nemov, currently ranked #1 in the world, is convinced “that it will probably take three months at the very most to be able to fully exploit the advantages of the new vault.”

After years of discussion the International Gymnastics Federation FIG (see FIG communiqué dated 9 October 2000) decided to put the old horse in the stable and permitted the introduction of the vaulting table as of 1 January 2001. The height of the table, which will be used at the Ghent World Championships in October, can be adjusted, so it can be used for both men (1,35m) and women (1,20m). The reasons for this radical change after almost 200 years can be found in the history of the apparatus.


Alexander the Great and his Macedonians are said to have practiced mounting and dismounting on a wooden horse. In the fourth century Vegetius describes Roman soldiers practicing on a wooden horse in his “Overview of the Roman Army”.

In the early 19th century, when Jahn, regarded as the father of gymnastics, was alive, there were three different kinds of horses on the Hasenheide in Berlin: One very close to reality with a head and a tail, one made of leather without a tail but with an ascending neck and the wooden "Schwingel (fescue-grass) a word which F.L. Jahn, who detested the use of foreign words in German, had created to avoid the originally French word of Voltegieren. The latter developed into the Olympic apparatus of pommel horse.

Historical horse on the Berlin's Hasenheide, 1811
Horse, 1811

For many decades there was no separate vaulting horse, the pommel horse was simply turned around and gymnasts vaulted over it lengthwise. The pommels were unscrewed and wooden poles inserted into the holes to avoid any injuries to the fingers when gymnasts pushed off the horse.

Carl Schuhmann - First Olympic Champion 1896 in Athens
Berlin's Olympic Champion Carl Schuhmann
1896 in Athens (Albert Meyer)
(right, up: Stamp of German Bundespost, 1996)

Berlin native Carl Schuhmann, the most successful German Olympian in Athens 1896, vaulted over that kind of apparatus… 
From then on this horse, which was never meant or constructed for vaulting over, stood at the end of the 20m runway like a dangerous and pointed bolt. 
Gymnastics saw many dangerous falls and collisions.

When Trent Dimas, who later went on to take the gold medal on high bar in Barcelona, seriously injured himself at the 1991 Indianapolis World Championships, FIG Vice President Siegfried Fischer (Brazil) called for the creation of a new vault, which could be used for both men and women.

One of the reasons was that the existing vault for men had a width of only 35 cms, far to narrow for the gymnasts’ broad shoulders.

Former East German head coach Dieter Hofmann first brought up this problem in 1983 and has since then addressed the topic in many lectures and articles, especially since the fact that the form of the vaulting horse was unsuitable to the male anatomy became even more evident after the introduction of the Yurchenko type vaults. Hofmann worked on the creation of Janssen & Fritsen’s Pegases as a consultant.

The name is derived from the legend of the flying horse "Pegasus" in Greek mythology and is meant to symbolize the vault into the next millennium.
Austrian sculptor, artist and coach Helmut Hoedelmoser from Vienna created a wooden model in the early ninties that Esslingen based apparatus manufacturers SPIETH used to build its Ergojet which they presented to the gymnastics world during the 1997 Lausanne World Championships.


 On January 26, 2001 the FIG informed  Janssen& Fritsen, Holland and SPIETH/Germany that their respective models “Pegases” and “Ergojet” had been officially certified according to FIG regulations.

Dieter Hofmann and his GDR team won Silver medal in Seoul 1988.
Coach Dieter Hofmann among 
Sven Tippelt and Sylvio Kroll (1988

In total, six versions of the vaulting table had been submitted for evaluation to the Institute of Biomechanics of Freiburg University by January 2001. So far, the two a.m. have received the precious FIG diploma. The stars of world gymnastics will definitely fly into the next millennium of gymnastics over the new apparatus at the coming world championships.

During a period of transition, which will last until the market for the new horse is fully satisfied, gymnasts will still be allowed to vault over the old horse.
* Author:
Eckhard Herholz, Berlin

< Olympic Champion Elena Zamolodshikova (RUS):
    "Pegases" - a new interesting target

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.