Olympic Club Swinging
Despite some popular belief, juggling has never been part of the Olympic Games. However, if you ever saw the past gymnastics event of Club Swinging you would know where they got the idea. Club Swinging has appeared twice as an Olympic Sport, in 1904 and 1932. It can be seen as a precursor to the modern Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastics discipline. Rhythmic gymnastics, in which competitors use apparatus such as the rope, hoop, ball, ribbon and clubs, joined the Olympic program at the L.A. Games in 1984.
Club Swinging involves the competitor standing erect with a club in each hand. Unlike juggling, the clubs do not leave the hands. The clubs look like bowling pins, or juggling clubs, and are whirled or swung very quickly around the body and head in a variety of patterns in a complicated routine. Judges award points based on the routine. An interview with a competitor from the 1932 Games remembers that they weighed a pound and a half each. Some reports say that the clubs in the 1904 event of "Club Swinging" were decorated with colorful streamers. The 1932 event was called "Indian Clubs", and may have been performed differently.
Club swinging is gaining in popularity as a form of exercise training. Maybe one day we will see it return to the Olympic Games in all its glory.
Americans have dominated this sport at Olympic level. At St. Louis 1904 there were just three competitors, all from the USA. Again in Los Angeles 1932 the American's swept the medals. There were four competitors this time, three from the USA, one from Mexico.
- Edward Hennig (USA) 13.0
- Emil Voigt (USA) 9.0
- Ralph Wilson (USA) 5.0
- George Roth (USA) 8.97
- Philip Erenberg (USA) 8.90
- William Kuhlemeier (USA) 8.63
The winner of the 1932 event, American George Roth, showed great dedication that is rarely seen these days. The Olympics were on during the Great Depression. Moments after the unemployed Roth was awarded his medal in front of 60,000 spectators, he walked out of the stadium in Los Angeles and hitchhiked home.