Braglia bounces back to deliver another golden gymnastics display
Alberto Braglia arrived in Stockholm as an Olympic champion, having won the individual all-around gymnastics event in London four years previously. He had been an outstanding gymnast since his youth – and had taught himself many of the required movements in his parents’ barn.
It was some achievement for the Italian to be competing in a second Games at all: in the few years after the 1908 Games he had been stripped of his amateur status by the Italian Gymnastics Federation, suffered serious shoulder and rib injuries and, most tragically of all, mourned the death of his four-year-old son.
A successful Olympic title defence seemed unlikely, but Braglia – who had suffered a nervous breakdown after these misfortunes – was reinstated as an amateur in time for 1912 and had recovered sufficiently to take his place as an important member of Italy’s travelling team.
Braglia’s first involvement in Stockholm came in the team competition on 11 July. After the five events – free, horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse and another free round – Italy had amassed 53.15 points, beating Hungary to the gold with Great Britain winning bronze. “The protocol shows a certain superiority for Italy in nearly all the groups of exercises judged,” observed the Official Report. “The carriage in the free movements was better than that of the other teams, and one could not avoid noticing the better all-round physical development of the Italian division.”
The individual all-around event was held a day later, and involved rounds on the horizontal bar, parallel bars, rings and pommel horse. Braglia retained his title convincingly, the three judges awarding him a total of 135 points. Frenchman Louis Segura finished second with 132.50 and another Italian, Serafino Mazzarocchi, won bronze with 131.50.
Braglia had proved himself to be the most versatile and multi-talented gymnast of his generation, and he opted to bow out on a high after Stockholm. He went on to work as a circus acrobat, though he returned to the Olympic stage in Los Angeles in 1932 as coach of the Italian gymnastics team. He died in 1954, though his exceptional achievements as an Olympian are commemorated in his home town of Modena, whose football stadium is named after him.