In Olympic gymnastics, many teams fell in the shadow of the Soviet Union until 1993. However, one team was able to stand out. Since the late 1980s, they have slowly fallen into the shadow of the United States, China, Romania and Russia. But for the first time in almost twenty five years, they are making their way back to the top.
Germany was once separated into two separate countries, East Germany and West Germany. While the East German men had won several team and individual Olympic medals, the women had fallen behind until the 1964 Tokyo Games. Birgit Radochla became the first woman from East Germany (or West) to win an Olympic medal, taking home silver on vault. She tied Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union.
The West German women never won an Olympic medal as a team or individually.
At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, the East German women won their first team medal, taking bronze. Erika Zuchold won silver on vault and Karin Büttner-Janz took silver on uneven bars.
Four years later at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the team won silver and Büttner-Janz became the first East German woman to win a medal in the all-around, claiming silver. She also won gold on vault and uneven bars along with bronze on balance beam. Erika Zuchold won silver on vault and bronze on uneven bars.
The 1976 Montreal Games were less successful for the women. They won bronze as a team and Carola Dombeck became the only in individual medalist, winning silver on vault with Ludmila Tourischeva of the Soviet Union.
The 1980 Moscow Olympics were boycotted by West Germany, the United States, China, Japan, Canada and South Korea. This opened many doors for East Germany and they did not miss the opportunity. They won team bronze. Individually, Maxi Gnauck won silver in the all-around with Nadia Comaneci of Romania, gold on uneven bars and bronze on floor with Natalia Shaposhnikova of the Soviet Union. Steffi Kraker won silver on vault and in a rare three way tie with Melita Ruhn of Romania and Maria Filatova of the Soviet Union, won bronze on uneven bars.
East Germany boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games along with the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, North Korea and Hungary. West Germany placed fourth as a team and did not have any individual medalists.
At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, East Germany won team bronze once again. This would be the last team medal for Germany and the last Olympics before the Berlin Wall was torn down, making Germany a unified country. Dagmar Kersten won silver on uneven bars.
Since the 1988 Games, Germany has not medaled as a team for the women. In 1992, the team placed ninth. They did not qualify a team in 1996, 2000 or 2004. In 2008, the team placed twelfth.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Oksana Chusovitina, who competed for the Soviets and then for her birth country of Uzbekistan and began competing for Germany in 2006, won silver on vault, giving Germany its first medal since the 1988 Games.
Germany has qualified a full women’s team to the London Olympics. And Chusovitina is competing for a spot on the team in hopes of winning another medal for the country. The German women haven’t looked this good in years and come London, they may surprise the world once again.