Gymnastics | The Canadian Encyclopedia



One of the oldest and most fundamental sports, it originated in ancient Greece. Modern-day artistic gymnastics developed in Germany in the early 1800s. The first Olympic Gymnasium opened in Montréal in 1843, followed by others in Québec City, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Halifax and Victoria.
Floor Routine
Requiring perfect balance (Corel Professional Photos).
Fung, Lori
Rhythmic gymnast Lori Fung, who excelled in a sport that was virtually unknown in the 1908s. At the Los Angeles Olympics she won the gold medal in all-round rhythmic gymnastics, Canada's first-ever medal in gymnastics (courtesy Canada's Sports Hall of Fame,


This sport is performed in many different formats: women on the vaulting horse, uneven bars, balance beam and in floor exercises; men on the vaulting horse, pommel horse, rings, parallel bars, horizontal bar and in floor exercises. Trampoline has recently become a popular addition to the sport. Gymnastics is participated in by all ages for fun, fitness, competition and social relaxation, and is included in modern-day school curriculums across Canada.


One of the oldest and most fundamental sports, it originated in ancient Greece. Modern-day artistic gymnastics developed in Germany in the early 1800s. The first Olympic Gymnasium opened in Montréal in 1843, followed by others in Québec City, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Halifax and Victoria. The inspiration for these clubs came mostly from immigrants from Germany and Czechoslovakia; an Englishman, F. Barnjum, was responsible for developments in the most active centre at that time, Montréal. The sport was introduced into school curriculums in the 1800s under the advisement of Egerton RYERSON, and in 1899 Canada became the 14 country to join the International Gymnastics Federation.

International Competition

Competitively, individuals such as Lou Sievert, Alan Keith and Orville Elliott represented Canada at the 1904 and 1908 OLYMPIC GAMES. In 1956 Ernestine Russell was Canada's first woman Olympic competitor. She placed first all-round at the 3rd Pan-American Games in Chicago (1959), making her the first Canadian medal winner in international gymnastic competition. Susan McDonnell won the women's uneven bars event at the 5th Pan-Am Games in Winnipeg (1967). Canada entered full teams (men and women) in the 1962 world championships in Prague and in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. By 1976 Canada's women's team was ranked in the top 10 in the world; by 1979 the men ranked in the top 15. The first national championship was held in 1923 at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The CNE donated all awards and for 11 consecutive years hosted this event for men. Women entered the championships for the first time in 1954. Canada has hosted many teams, the first being the Japanese in 1962, and was the host country of the 1980 World Cup in gymnastics. In 1985, the 23rd world championships was hosted in Montréal; Canada's women's team placed 9th and the men's team 11th.

Canadian gymnastics now has an organization with a full-time staff, sophisticated national programs, a registered membership of over 150 000, over 500 active coaches and many thousands of dedicated supporters. Outstanding Canadian gymnasts include Philip Delesalle, whose best career performance was 12th all-round at the 1979 world championships in Fort Worth, Texas; Elfi Schlegel, the first Canadian medal winner in a World Cup (bronze in vaulting); and Brad Peters (14th all-round in the world from his performance at the world championships in 1985). In the 1983 WORLD UNIVERSITY GAMES at Edmonton, Canada won 4 medals in gymnastics, including a gold by Phillipe Chartrand. In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the women's team placed 5th overall; Kelly Brown was 6th in the vault. The men's team placed 8th. Chartrand won a gold medal on the high bar at the 1986 Leningrad invitational, attended by over 80 gymnasts from 36 countries.

Canadian gymnastics received world recognition when Curtis HIBBERT won Canada's first-ever medal at a world championship in 1987, a silver on the high bar, and went on to reach 3 event finals at the 1988 Olympic Games. The 1990 COMMONWEALTH GAMES produced Canada's best gymnastic results at any major international competition: Hibbert and Lori Strong won the men's and women's all-around, and there was gold in both men's and women's team, 6 individual event golds, 7 silvers and 1 bronze. In 1991 Hibbert won his second world championship medal, bronze in the vault. At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, no Canadian qualified for an individual event final. Stella Umeh placed 16th in the women's all-around and Hibbert placed 36th in the men's. The best Canadian performance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics came from Yvonne Tousek, who finished 26th in the women's all-around. Kate Richardson advanced to 16th place and Kyle SHEWFELT placed 12th in the floor exercises at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. That same year trampoline became a part of the Olympic gymnastics repertoire, and Karen Cockburn won bronze in the individual trampoline event.

Canada's success at international competition continued to grow after Sydney. Kyle Shewfelt won 2 gold and 1 silver medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and 2 bronze medals at the 2003 World Championships. He won a gold at the 2004 Olympic Games at Athens, and holds a unique spot in Canadian gymnastics history as the only gold medal winner in Artistic Gymnastics. Along with rhythmic gymnast Lori FUNG, he is the second Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport altogether. Karen COCKBURN continued her successful career after Sydney, winning the World Championships in 2003 and two World Cup competitions in 2004. As at Sydney, she excelled at Athens in 2004, taking the silver medal in the individual trampoline event. In 2005, she and her partner, Canadian champion Rosannagh MacLennan, won Canada's first World Cup gold medal in the synchronized trampoline event. In 2008 she won a silver medal at the Beijing games. Along with MacLennan, the pair has gone on to win eight consecutive World Cup events in synchronized trampoline, including second place at the 2009 Canadian Championships, and the 2009 World Championships. In 2011 she placed first in both the individual and synchronized events at the Elite Canada competitions, the World Cup in Japan, and the Canada Cup. Rosannagh MacLennan has also achieved solo competition success, winning a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the women's trampoline event.

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