Hubbard's Cupboard: Ludicrous, polemic, tragic – gymnastics in London 1948

The man with incredible tales from past Games

Hopes fly high for Beth Tweddle and Britain's quintet of beam and bar belles who have already made history by following their male counterparts into the country's first gymnastics team final since 1924. "We are like sisters," says Liverpudlian Beth, Britain's most decorated gymnast, "and we will all pull together. We'll relish the pressure."

Gymnastics is truly a pressure sport, which occasionally is not helped by idiosyncratic judging. One bizarre instance of this occurred in the London Games of 1948 when, with scoring on a scale of one to 10, a female adjudicator awarded a Czechoslovakian gymnast 13.1.

The Czechoslovakians went on to victory, but under tragic circumstances. Shortly after their team arrived in London one of its members, 22-year-old Eliska Misakova, was taken ill, diagnosed with polio, then known as infantile paralysis, and hospitalised in an iron lung.

She died on the day of her team's debut in the Games but the Czechoslovakians, who included her sister, Miloslava, insisted on going through with their performance and won the gold medal. When the national flag was raised for the ceremony it was laced with black ribbon as a mark of respect to Eliska.

But that wasn't the only drama surrounding the Czechoslovakian gymnasts. After the Games, Marie Provaznikova, the leader of their women's team and president of the Women's Technical Commission at the Games, refused to return to her homeland because "there is no freedom of speech, the press or of politics". Thus she became the first Olympian to defect, though by no means the last.

In 1948 the gymnastics were supposed to be held in the open on the Wembley turf. But it poured with rain and was switched to Earls Court. There, the British women's team finished ninth and last and the men's 12th of out 16. No pressure there then, Beth?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones