90 Years of Tumbling Evolution In Under 3 Minutes

This article and its video counterpart were fun to make. I titled both pieces 90 years of tumbling evolution because they show how much the sport changed during that time. 

All sports change and improve with time. It is fun to watch old black-and-white footage of past World Cups and see how differently the players moved then. Wanting to experience that feeling of enjoyment with my sport, I went looking for old tumbling videos.

What I found was delightfully enlightening. 

I searched for hours, and finding what I required wasn’t easy, even in the vastness of the Internet, but I eventually came upon an old clip by The American Broadcasting Company that delivered precisely what I needed. 

A video recording of the one and only tumbling Olympic Rowland Wolfe showing off his skills in 1932. And Wolfe is the one true tumbling Olympic champion because that was the only year the sport was part of the Olympic games. 

Roland Wolfe 90 years ago
Rowland Wolfe – 1932

Later, the organizing committees deemed the discipline too similar to the floor exercise in Artistic Gymnastics. In efforts to make gymnastics centerstage at the Olympic games, tumbling was removed from the roster. 

The footage shows a 19-year-old Wolfe tumbling outside on what we now refer to as “dead mats”. In the first part of the footage, he demonstrates a series of fast back handsprings. It’s important to note that while his power and speed are commendable (especially on a hard surface), his form would score poorly, given today’s standards. 

But this post isn’t about criticizing Rowland Wolfe, who was an exemplary athlete in his own right. No, this is about understanding how much the sport of tumbling has evolved in the last 90 years. 

Tumbling Evolution

To show this evolution, I compared the 1932 film to Kaden Brown’s performance at the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama. 

It is impressive to see how humans can improve over time. 

Kaden Brown is the current World Games champion, and his difficulty level would have been impossible in the minds of the athletes and coaches of 90 years ago. 

90 years of tumbling evolution
Kaden Brown – 2022

What will we achieve in the next 90 years? I can imagine intricate skills and combinations, but will we reach that level of difficulty? 

Thank you for reading.

— Coach José

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