The First Inverted Cross on Still Rings

Could you please tell me who was the first Olympian to perform the Inverted Iron Cross? I believe he actually called it the St. Peter’s Cross in the performance and I believe it occured in the late 80’s or early 90’s.

It is really hard to determine who was the first to perform a gymnastics skill, especially when the skill was performed long ago, and for which video is either impossible or difficult to find.

Even today, there are disputes about who actually did a skill first, even though there is a formal system to name skills after gymnasts in the FIG Code of Points. But the FIG names the skills after the first gymnast to perform a skill in FIG International competition. Some other gymnast, who did not compete in an International meet or competed the skill in a regional or national meet in their own country, may actually have been the one to do the skill first.

But in regards to the inverted cross, unless you are talking about the late 1880’s or 1890’s, you are off by more than, at least, 50 years, as to when it was first done, first done in the Olympics or first done by an Olympian.

Just the way you framed the question makes it even more difficult to answer – “the first Olympian to perform the Inverted Iron Cross?” Did you mean the first gymnast to compete the skill in the Olympics or did you mean the first gymnast to compete the skill, who was also an Olympian?  Not that I can accurately answer either question, but I do have some further information for you about this.

Leon Štukelj ( November 12, 1898 – November 8, 1999), who lived for 101 years, was a Yugoslav gymnast of Slovene nationality and an Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics. He competed internationally from the 1922 Ljubljana World Championships to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This video below is described as being him and being from 1938 and some claim he was the originator of the skill (and he was also an Olympian). If he was doing this skill, you could assume he did it in 1936 Berlin Olympics.

But as far as the first gymnast to perform it in the Olympics, I can find information to show that Alois Hudec (1908-1997), from Czechoslovakia, did perform it in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

I have no way of knowing for sure who did it first or whether they both did it in the 1936 Olympics, but that may have been the first time both of them competed it in the Olympics. But I have no way to find out who actually competed first in the meet on rings, so I still cannot completely answer your question.

So, an incomplete answer, but we have narrowed down the answer to two good possibilities, and you now know that the inverted cross was done far earlier than you imagined, as the video from 1938 below clearly shows you:

There may well have been a gymnast or gymnasts, who called the inverted cross a “St. Peter’s Cross,” which actually is an interesting name. The origin of this symbol and the name is that the apostle, Simon Peter, was crucified upside down. It is believed that he actually requested this type of crucifixion, because he felt he was unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus Christ was. The St. Peter’s Cross is now often associated with Satanic culture and has become very popular with with heavy metal groups and musicians. So there may well have been some “bad boy” gymnasts calling and inverted cross the St. Peter’s Cross, but while they may have been the first ones to call it that, they were not the first to do it.

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