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Gymnastics at the 1900 Paris Summer Games

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Host City: Paris, France
Date Started: July 29, 1900
Date Finished: July 30, 1900
Events: 1

Participants: 135 (135 men and 0 women) from 8 countries
Youngest Participant: FRA Auguste Castille (17 years, 78 days)
Oldest Participant: SUI Charles Brodbeck (31 years, 299 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 3 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): FRA France (3 medals)


Only one event contested in gymnastics at the 1900 Paris Exposition is usually considered to be an Olympic event. That is the combined exercises, individual. In the 1900 Official Report, it is listed as “Championnat International de Gymnastique.” Oddly, earlier in the section on gymnastics, there is another description of an event which is listed as “Championnat des Jeux Olympiques de 1900.” However, 23 have never seen any gymnastics event from 1900 referred to as such in the newspapers and sporting magazines of the era, including the best source for 1900 gymnastics results, the French gymnastics magazine, Le Gymnaste. The suspicion is that they are the same event, one scheduled, but then held under a different name, with slightly different rules.

The scoring for the “Championnat des Jeux Olympiques de 1900” was to run to a maximum of 160 points in eight events, most of which were actually weightlifting events. The scoring for the “Championnat International de Gymnastique” called for a maximum of 320 points in 16 events, of which 12 are considered today gymnastics disciplines. The sixteen events contested in the “Championnat International de Gymnastique” were as follows: 1) Horizontal Bar – Compulsory; 2) Horizontal Bar – Optional; 3) Parallel Bars – Compulsory; 4) Parallel Bars – Optional; 5) Rings – Compulsory; 6) Rings – Optional; 7) Pommelled Horse – Compulsory; 8) Pommelled Horse – Optional; 9) Floor exercises – Compulsory; 10) Floor exercises – Optional; 11) Long horse vault – Compulsory; 12) “Combined” high jump – Compulsory; 13) Long jump – Compulsory; 14) Pole vault – Compulsory; 15) Rope climbing – Compulsory; and 16) Weight lifting 50 kg. 10 times – Compulsory.

Scoring for the first ten events was from 0-20, depending on the quality of the exercises, as follows, per the 1900 Official Report: 20 – Perfect; 18-19 – Very good; 15-17 – Good; 12-14 – Fairly good; 9-11 – Acceptable; 6-8 – Mediocre; 3-5 – Poor; 1-2 – Very Poor; 0 – No try made.

In the athletics events, which were commonly held at the turn of the century in combined events in gymnastics, the athletes were apparently scored for “style” points while attempting to perform at a certain standard. In the long jump, the standard was to jump 5.00 metres. In the pole vault, the standard was to vault 2.20 metres. In the combined high and long jump, they were required to jump over a rope held at a height of 1.25 metres and set at 1.00 metre from the take-off. In rope climbing, the gymnasts were asked to climb a 6.00 metre tall rope. In the 20th event, or the weightlifting, the gymnasts were given 2 points for each time that they could lift the 50 kg. overhead to arms height, to a maximum of 10 times, or 20 points.

Le Gymnaste and the 1900 Official Report made several comments about the nationality of the gymnasts. They stated that no Russians had entered but 12 or 14 Germans would be present. They also noted that only a few Swiss would compete, because the Swiss championships were to be held the next week, preventing many of them from traveling to Paris for the contests. Of note, Joseph Martinez, who finished 7th in the Olympic event, eventually also finished 3rd at the Swiss championships. Also mentioned was that only one Italian competed, that being Camillo Pavanello from Sampierdarena. Interestingly, Le Gymnaste commented that four (4) Algerians were competing, all from Oran, and none from Algiers. Algeria was a French colony until 1962, but these four athletes – Jean Martinez, Jean Castiglioni, Lévy, and Koubi – could be considered the first African Olympians.

The events were held outdoors and it was very hot, with temperatures between 35° and 40° C. (95°-104° F.). The event was closed by a dinner for all contestants held on 31 July at The Restaurant de la Lune à l’Exposition.