A trip down memory lane with Lindsay Nylund

In celebration of Gymnastics Australia’s 70th Birthday in September, the focus for the week now switches to the Men’s Artistic Gymnastics (MAG) program. 

Flashback to 1978 in Edmonton, Canada. This was the first year that gymnastics was included in the Commonwealth Games. 

Australia’s own, Lindsay Nylund claimed the countries first individual gymnastics Commonwealth Games medal with his Silver in the All Around competition; his final result was 54.95 points. Nylund was also a part of the Bronze medal team for Australia that year, which included Rudolf Starosta and Warwick Forbes. 

Nylund remembers the most significant moment in his career which was his Parallel Bars routine at the 1978 Commonwealth Games. 

“On the last event of the men’s all around competition and I happened to be last in the rotation,” Nylund said.

“The Canadian gymnast who was up before me was in second position overall, so I needed to hit my routine to get into Silver medal position. 

“Unfortunately, there was a protest on his score and it took at least 15 minutes for the judges to deliberate. 

“Competitors on all of the other apparatus had finished and the large TV cameras that were located around the podium were being wheeled around to the Parallel Bars.

“The competition was being broadcast live too many countries including Australia, so this caused my adrenaline level and heart rate to go up considerably which is not really a good thing when you are trying to stay calm and concentrate on the task at hand. 

“I mentally rehearsed my routine about 10 times to keep focussed to try and get my heart rate down from what felt like 200 beats per minute. 

“In the end I got through the routine cleanly, which was a great relief!”

Nylund’s successful All Around competition then resulted in him becoming the first Australian gymnast to win an international medal.

“It was a very proud moment with the team getting a Bronze and myself the Silver in the all around,” Nylund said.

“Because it was such a significant event, now over 40 years later I can still remember every detail of my Parallel Bars routine. 

“I was also first on Pommel Horse but being the first time gymnastics was included in the Commonwealth Games, they only awarded Team and All Around medals. “

1969 was the year that Nylund commenced with his school gymnastics club; he reflects on what it was like back then, and how it has changed over the years.

“Most of the equipment I trained on during the first few years was hand-made by our school Physical Education and gymnastics teacher, Akos Kovacs,” Nylund said.

“We had no crash-mats when I first started.

“So to learn how to do ‘flyaways’ and other dismounts involving somersaults without getting injured; we would go down to the school boat-shed on the Swan River and practice dismounts from a high bar that Akos had built at the end of the jetty and landed in the river!

“It was a lot of fun, unless you landed in a swarm of large brown jellyfish.

“In the 1960’s and 1970’s there was a lot of evolution in relation to equipment – Pits only started being built in the mid-1970’s, but I think it was in the 1980’s when they were first built in Australia. 

“I trained at Arizona State University on an athletic scholarship from 1976 to 1981, and it was not until about 1980 when a pit was built in our gym.

“There was a lot of development with new skills and code of points. Every 4-year Olympic cycle new compulsory routines were developed by FIG, and compulsory routines were phased out of international competition in 1997. 

“And then a decade later there was the big change to the judging system from a score out of 10, to separation of difficulty and execution scores… No more Perfect 10’s!”

So much may have changed and developed over the years for the sport but the opportunities from the MAG program have led Nylund to where he is today.

“My current profession involves training equestrian athletes (the two-legged ones), in how to respond when they come off a horse to reduce injury risk,” Nylund said. 

“It gives me great satisfaction to know that while I am not currently contributing to our medal tally, rider fall safety training - a modified version of gymnastics for all can help to save riders from serious injury outcomes.”