How did the balance beam become part of women’s gymnastics?  The balance beam is an apparatus used by the women’s gymnastics team.  A gymnast is required to perform many difficult skills on a beam that is 10 centimeter wide, 500 centimeters long and raised off the ground 120 centimeters.  When a gymnast is beginning her skills on the beam, she begins with simple moves like a forward roll, half turn and tuck jump for a dismount.  At the highest levels she performs a front tuck, double turn and double back for a dismount.


The concept behind the balance beam originated through the medieval warriors.  They would spar each other with weapons or bare hands on a log over the water.  Then in the 19th century, Johann GutsMuths created a beam from a round tree trunk.  In 1841, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, considered the Father of Gymnastics, devised a contraption that held a long piece of wood anchored on two ends over a river.  It was called schwebebaum derived from the word schweben meaning being in balance.  He created it to be flexible and move slightly while in use.  This device was the inspirations for the German gymnasts for the balance beam for gymnastics in the 1860’s.


It was not until 1934 that the balance beam finally reached competition level at the World Gymnastics Championship in Budapest, Hungary.  In 1952 the balance beam was introduced to the Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.  The gold medalist in the event that year went to a gymnast from the USSR, which is now known as Russia, named Nina Bocharova.  The first woman to throw a back flip on the beam was Erika Zuchold of Germany in 1964.  Finally in 1973, the beam was covered with padding and a leather covering prior to that it was a smoothed piece of wood.



Photo Credits: Raphael Goetter

The modern beam has to meet specific requirements.  Performances on the beam consist of acrobatic skills, dance moves, leap, poses and a dismount.  The skills required on the balance beam are used in their floor routines as well.  However, the skills are significantly more difficult to perform on a beam.  It requires flexibility, strength, grace and most important balance.  Whether sparring on a log over water or performing a back handspring layout stepout, the beam has always been about balance.     

Around the World from A to Z: Honduras

Lying surrounded by Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador in Central America, Honduras is a beautiful, culturally rich country, especially well known for it’s huge coral reef, the third largest in the world.

Honduras is located in Central America. The capital city is Tegucigalpa, and the population it 7,754,687 people. The country is northwest of South America. There are many ethnic groups in the country, such as mestizos, Lenca, Tolupán, Chorti, Garifuna, Tawahka, and Miskito. There are also ten languages ​​in Honduras: Spanish, English, Ch’orti’, Garifuna, Lenca, Miskito, Pech, Sumo Tawahka, Tol, and Honduras sign language, which counts as an official language of its own. Ninety percent of people in Honduras are Roman Catholic. Three percent are Protestant, and the remaining seven percent consists of the rest of the religious minorities in the country.

Photo Credit: USFWS Pacific

Honduras’s national flower is the orchid, a beautiful species that has “beauty, vigor, and distinction”, according to the decree that dictated it. The national animal of Honduras is the white-tailed deer, which was appointed as an effort to stop excessive depredation. The unit of currency in Honduras is the lempira. A lempira is equivalent to five cents in American money. The main exports are coffee, fruit, and nuts.

The flag of Honduras has a lot of symbolical value for the country, as does the coat of arms. The flag has three stripes, blue, white, and blue, from top to bottom. In the center of the flag are five blue stars. The stars represent the first members of the Federal Republic of Central America. Blue symbolizes the sea, the sky, truth, justice, and loyalty. White means peace.

The coat of arms of Honduras has an eye, a cornucopia, and trees and cliffs.

The triangle means equality and freedom. Trees and cliffs represent the natural beauty of the country.

The coral reefs in particular make the natural beauty of Honduras stand out. The reefs in Honduras are actually part of a larger chain, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, that stretches along the coasts of four Central American countries. This spectacular reef is home to more than 65 types of coral, 350 types of mollusks, and several hundred different species of tropical fish. Many of these species are endangered, so multiple protections have been placed on the reef. The coral is also home to one of the world’s largest populations of manatees, another endangered species.

The coral is only one of the many attractions in Honduras. With it’s rich culture and astonishing natural beauty, Honduras is a great place to visit, and one that is certain to offer an experience that will never be forgotten.

Next in series: Around the World from A to Z: India by urvi011235

The History of Food: Escargot

Ewwwww… escargot. These creatures are a treat for the French, but we think of it as being disgusting. These are snails that have gone through heliculture and have been stuffed back into their shells with garnishes. Years ago, in ancient … Continue reading

The History of Food: The Philly Cheesesteak

Today, we are exploring another American staple: the cheesesteak. The cheesesteak is a distinctive signature dish of Philadelphia, and as most other foods do, it has a history behind it. Pat and Harry Olivieri are usually said to have invented … Continue reading

The History of Food: Haggis

HAGGIS! The famed dished claimed to have originated from Scotland. This remarkable dish has an interesting history. To understand haggis, first we must ask ourselves, what is haggis? Well, to be concise, haggis is a sort of meat pudding, made … Continue reading