I don't think any of us need to see old videos as proof, but I decided to look back at some of the most notable gymnasts in the past 30 years, and show you just how much the sport has changed. I think it's easiest to tell when watching a beam routine, but since that's not normally the favorite event to watch, I have some examples from all of them.
The horse changed in the early 2000s, but I don't think that had a whole lot to do with the skill level increase.
Nadia Comaneci- 1980
Kerri Strug, epic vault of 1996
Jordyn Wieber, 2012 Olympic Trials
The bars used to be a lot closer together, so the types of skills have changed quite a bit... but notice all the release moves and different ways of gripping the bar Gabby does compared to Kim.
Nadia's perfect 10!
Kim Zmeskal- 1992
Gabby Douglas- 2012 [practice]
It used to be simple and dancy, with a couple mandatory skills. Now it's an unbelievable amount of connections/series of skills.
Svetlana Boginskaya- 1988
Shannon Miller- 1996
Carly Patterson- 2004
[CLICK HERE for Aly Raisman's beam routine from qualifications. NBC is selfish and won't let me share.]
You'll notice quite a bit of dancing early on... but now it's nothing but skill after skill [and not as much sticking].
Mary Lou Retton- 1984
Dominique Dawes- 2000 [trials, but she made it!]
Gabby Douglas- 2012 Trials
I'm really upset it's so hard to find good quality videos, but whatever... that's not the point.
It's crazy to watch the routines from the 80s again because I could have easily done any of those routines while I was in my prime. In the 90s, there was no way I'd be doing most of those skills, but I could if I really worked hard. The things they're doing now- oh hell no. They've been brainwashed into not being afraid of ANYTHING.
Kudos, gymnasts of today. You're truly incredible. And to the gymnasts of tomorrow and another decade from now- I'm terrified of and for you. I can't even imagine what they'll be coming up with.