Rhythmic gymnastics was conceived from the ideas of I.G. Noverre during the 18th century, and further developed by Francois Delsarte and R. Bode during the 19th century, where Peter Henry Ling expanded further on the concept of movement expression. At first, the would-be sport was a form of free exercise, but it was soon extended further by Catharine Beecher in Ohio US in 1837, transforming the art into an exercise program for women.
While being further developed over the years, it was in the 20th century, the first school of rhythmic gymnastics was born in Sweden, where all developed styles were combined. More elements were added and in 1929 The Medau School in Germany was the first to train what can be conceived as "modern gymnastics", with the addition of using equipment.
Competitions in rhythmic gymnastics, originated in the former Soviet Union during the 1940s, and the sports was officially recognized by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique in 1961, after which competitions at an international level could be organized.
In Rhythmic gymnastics the participants either perform solo, or in a team. The sport combines ballet with gymnastic, often involving the manipulation of one or multiple devices. During the performance, points are awarded by a designated panel and the participating individual, or team which generates the most points wins.
The sport is governed by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique, which made changes to the code for awarding points on numerous occasions starting in 2001, with the last change to have occurred in 2008. The purposes for the changes were to place more emphasis on the technical aspects of the sports in order to diminish the subjectivity in the rulings by the panel. The Federation also determines what devices are used during the competitions.
For the competitions, a junior and a senior league exist. Gymnasts start practicing at a really young age and generally are at the height of their professional careers during their early twenties. For Rhythmic gymnastics the main events are the Olympics and the World championships.
Throughout all of Spain, rhythmic gymnastics has gained a lot of popularity, spawning two very successful gymnasts: Carolina Pascual, winner of the silver medal in Barcelona for all-round competition in 1992, and Almudena Cid, the only Spanish gymnast competing at all four Olympic events. In the group events, the team for Spain won a gold medal in the new groups’ competition in 1996.
Carolina Pascual started off as a ballet dancer at the age of 7, and went into rhythmic gymnastics on the recommendation of her teacher. She was selected for the National Team in 1990 and turned out to be one of Spain's most successful gymnasts. She retired from the sport in 1993 and now works as a coach.
Almudena Cid started training at the age of 6. She made the Spanish National Team in 1994 and competed during the Olympics of 1996 in two finals. Almudena is also one of the few gymnasts that come from the western parts of Europe able to compete with Eastern gymnasts.