Until early March, in gymnasiums and arenas from the East Coast to Kansas and Texas, visiting Swedes will be moving gracefully and with a mission: to reawaken U.S. interest in gymnastics. It has been 50 years since the U.S. won the Olympic gym title, which was taken handily in 1952 by Russia. Last season, to re-interest the U.S., Gymnastic Coach Gene Wettstone of Penn State arranged for a 10-man Swedish team—"the world's best at the sort of fast tumbling and high jumping that would appeal to Americans"—to tour the country.
The all-male show was a sellout, so this season Sweden returned bringing the best of its gymnastic ladies too. "American women do not have sufficient activities designed for women, so here was a great thing," observed Coach Wettstone, as the tumbling, swirling, split-precision Swedes drew crowds three times as large as last year. "The Russian and German women gymnasts are stronger, but the Swedes have the elegance, the grace. Their movements bring out the finer feminine features."
At west point before 2,000 cadets Sweden's women gymnasts line up at the start of their routine. "An appreciative audience," said one tactical officer afterward. "When cadets see women perform so well at calisthenics, they really are impressed."
Reception committee of cadets surmounts the language barrier to invite the touring Swedish girls to a supper party.
Backward somersault is executed by Doris Hedberg at Stockholm Central Institute for Gymnastics. She is an 18-year-old schoolgirl, is the girl at the left on Si's cover this week.
Bridge standing is gymnastic term for the exercise done by Maud Karlén. SI's other cover girl, she is 22, a Stockholm office worker, and is considered the glamour girl of Swedish team.
Slow rising movement on the bar is performed by Ann-Sofi Petterson, 20, a Stockholm elementary school gym teacher.