Joaqium Blume (ESP)
Tribute courtesy of Annerin Long

Joaqium Blume competed at a time that marked a crossroads in men’s gymnastics. The Soviet Union and Japan were in the early years of establishing themselves as the powers of the sport, yet it was still not unusual to see western European gymnasts in the top ranks. Even at that, Blume’s successes went unmatched by any other Spanish gymnast until recent years.

Blume, born in Barcelona, began gymnastics under the direction of his father Arnando. Arnando Blume was a German émigré and also a former gymnast. The younger Blume’s first success came in 1949, when he won the Catalan all around title at the age of sixteen. Two years later he won the first of three national titles.

His success at the national level was rewarded with a trip to the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. These Olympics saw the emergence of the USSR and Japan in the world arena. Blume finished 56th of 212 gymnasts in an All Around competition won by the great Viktor Chukarin.

Two years later, at the 1954 World Championships, Blume advanced to 44th in the All Around (again won by Chukarin). He followed this with a near sweep of the 1955 Mediterranean Games, held in his hometown. With golds in every event except the team and vault (3rd), Blume became a local hero. Perhaps more significantly in world rankings, Blume finished 10th at the 1955 European Championships. Unfortunately, injury and politics prevented him from proving himself in the next major competition, the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. Blume suffered a broken leg in training for the Games, but even without this injury, he probably would have still missed his opportunity. Spain, in protest of the USSR’s recent invasion of Hungary, chose not to send a delegation to Melbourne.

Blume’s greatest moment was yet to come, though. In 1957, he captured the title of European Champion. In doing so, he defeated Yuri Titov (third at 1956 Olympics, World Champion in 1962) by the margin of .75. Blume continued his dominance in the event finals, taking the gold on pommel horse, rings, and parallel bars. With this victory, Blume became one of only six non-Soviet (or former Soviet republic) gymnasts to ever win the European Championships, and one of only two western European gymnasts to do so (Franco Menichelli of Italy was the other).

Blume’s life was sadly ended in an airplane crash on 29 April 1959. With him were his wife and six other Spanish gymnasts. He received the Sports Medal of Merit posthumously. At the tenth anniversary of his death, the Spanish Federation inaugurated the Joaquim Blume Memorial Competition, which for many years drew some of the best gymnasts in the years. Suspended in recent years, it will once again be held in May 2004.

. This page was created on July 11, 2000 and last updated April 2004.
 

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