School of Humanities



Georgia Cervin


Start date

Feb 2013

Submission date

Sep 2016

Georgia Cervin


A balance of power: women’s artistic gymnastics during the Cold War and its aftermath


This research traces the development of Women’s Artistic Gymnastics (WAG) during the Cold War and its aftermath, 1952 – 2000, through exploration of the differing responses in the United States and Australia to Soviet domination.

WAG entered Olympic competition in 1952 at Helsinki, when the first appearance of the USSR started forty years of team ascendancy. By 1992 emphasis on spectacle and risk had replaced gymnastics’ balletic origins. In the decade following, as Eastern bloc experts moved outwards and shared their knowledge, a greater number of countries became medal contenders in a sport once dominated by the Eastern bloc.

This research analyses the way this evolution was a response to political tensions both between East and West and within the Eastern bloc. Using gymnastics publications, newspaper articles, and International Gymnastics Federation Bulletins, this project traces the development of the sport through the eyes of the tight-knit gymnastics community, the International Gymnastics federation, and the wider public.

Why my research is important

Although sporting conflict is a well-known feature of the Cold War, Women’s Artistic Gymnastics has received relatively little scholarly attention. This research thus bridges a gap in research into cultural aspects of the Cold War, while simultaneously examining how political conflicts have affected the development of the sport. In addition, it engages with the importance of different models of sports systems, and their efficacy in producing Olympic results in gymnastics.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • University of Western Australia Safety Net Top Up
  • Broeze Award in History (UWA, 2014)
  • Postgraduate Student's Association Travel Award (UWA, 2014)

President Nixon (centre) meets members of the Soviet National Gymnastics Team, including Olga Korbut (right) and Ludmilla Tourischeva (left) at the White House, 1973.