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In the 1800s rhythmic gymnastics operated under the guise of group gymnastics, and included a trace of elementary choreography. It grew slowly until the first experimental competitions appeared in eastern Europe in the 1930s, when its newfound complexity began to draw a wider audience.
Rhythmic gymnastics evolved from a host of related disciplines. It incorporates elements from classical ballet, such as pliés and arabesques, as well as the German system of emphasising apparatus work for muscle development and the Swedish method of using free exercise to develop rhythm.
The FIG recognised rhythmic gymnastics as an official discipline in 1963, and a year later organised an international tournament in Budapest. In 1964 the tournament was officially declared the first Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships, and Ludmila Savinkova of the Soviet Union became the first world champion.
The number of athletes grew as interest spread to other parts of the world. Gymnasts from the United States first appeared at the championships in 1973, and rhythmic gymnastics slowly emerged from the shadow of the long-established artistic discipline to enter the Olympic programme in 1984.
Since its integration into the Games in 1984 in Los Angeles, rhythmic gymnastics has always been a part of the Olympic programme. In its inaugural year, it was Canada’s Lori Fung who won the gold medal.
Until 1992 in Barcelona, only one individual event was on the programme. A second, team event was added to the programme in 1996 in Atlanta.
At the 2000 Games in Sydney, the Russian Federation won two gold medals: the group and individual multiple competitions.