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Hardy Fink’s report from the German Turnfest

After writing some four hundred FIG website reports related to academy and age group activities and meetings over the past 15 years, I am indulging my wish to write about a somewhat different event.

As a 70th birthday present to myself, I decided to attend the Deutches Turnfest as a competitor. Four other of my training partners from the 1960’s and their wives also attended. But in the end, I was the only one of the group to compete.

The Deutches Turnfest is probably the largest sporting festival and competition in the world with an attendance this year of 80,000 competitors aged 4-94 who competed in a large variety of gymnastics related events that form part of the German Gymnastics Federation (Deutches Turner Bund). This year the competition was held in Berlin, Germany from June 3-8. It is held approximately every four years with the next one scheduled for Leipzig in 2021.

For me it was an inexplicable joy to see so many compete, and perhaps an additional 20,000 have an opportunity to explore, and express the joy of movement that when done with skill becomes gymnastics. Some 40 large halls and many smaller ones accommodated the competitions, the seminars, the explore-gymnastics-settings, and the display areas at the enormous facilities of the Berlin Messe and elsewhere in the city.

Unknown to me in advance was that the 70-74 men’s age group in which I competed has a choice of three events from among five MAG events (not rings) as well as a variety of other gymnastics related events and even track & field events such as 50-meter run, standing long jump, shot put and so on. The results from the varied events held over several days with different judges and on different apparatus and venues are equated with a formula to determine the three-event ranking. I chose parallel bars, vault and horizontal bar because I felt I could do the prescribed exercises without the possibility or need of any real opportunity to practice them.

I had an absolute blast. I enjoyed every minute of my competition and of all of the hundreds of other events that I was able to briefly witness. I enjoyed the feeling of again standing in front of judges after not having done so for 33 years and of the slight nervousness and of the satisfaction of completing even these basic routines. We in the FIG so often speak of gymnastics as a lifetime activity, but very few actually do it. This was an opportunity for me to “walk the walk” rather than only talk and to see others some two decades older also still do competitive gymnastics activities with joy. It was an opportunity to be reminded in a real way of the totality of gymnastics activities and YES, it can be done during all phases of a life.

The whole event and the accompanying activities and displays and seminars are an absolute must – a “bucket list” item – for any gymnastics fan. As so many times in the past, I once again renewed my passion for this sport and all that it has to offer. I recommend participation in or attendance at a future German Turnfest to everyone. It embodies what we are all about.

And some of you will wonder about my results. The most important result was absolute joy in every way made more special by being provided with a Canadian National Team uniform when I could no longer find my competition clothing from four decades ago. Another important result was that I participated in this wonderful event for the first time since 1973 and competed for the first time since 1984, and was able to successfully perform those rather simple exercises and stick all three landings. The least important result, but satisfying nevertheless, was that I placed sixth overall. Where is the judges’ evaluation program when I need it?

Submitted by: Hardy Fink



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