If there was a more heated and controversial event at the Olympic Games in Greece, it had to be men's gymnastics, with the scoring squabbles and the questions of proper scoring involving American gold medal winner Paul Hamm.
Well, it made one think of a Hudson County native who etched his place in the national gymnastic spotlight a long time ago - the same great athlete who only recently passed away just last month.
West New York native Frank Cumiskey, who died in Florida at the age of 92 in late July, was one of the first giants in the sport of men's gymnastics. If it wasn't for World War II, Cumiskey might have been a five-time member of the United States Olympic team.
Cumiskey competed in three Olympic Games (1932, 1936 and 1948) and won 24 national championships in 20 years of competing. He was a member of the Hudson County Swiss Turners, a local gymnastic team that won an amazing 17 AAU national championships.
Cumiskey, who won several AAU all-around national titles, is best known for his pommel horse innovations. Cumiskey is believed to be the first competitor to hop from the neck to the saddle while swinging circles; circles on a single pommel and a full twisting loop (spindle) on the end. He won seven national pommel horse titles, a record that still stands.
In fact, the move led to a new-fangled form of pommel horse that was known in the circuit as the "Cumiskey" horse.
Cumiskey began competition as a student at New York University and was a member of the Olympic team that won a silver medal for combined exercises in 1932, when he finished sixth in the pommel horse. He won national championships in the all-around in 1934, 1936, 1945, 1946, and 1947; in the pommel horse in 1932, 1936, 1937, 1944, 1945, and 1947; in the horizontal bars in 1934, 1936, 1944, 1945, 1946, and 1948; in the parallel bars in 1944 and 1945; in the floor exercise in 1935; and in vaulting in 1945.
Cumiskey was not only a competitor in the 1948 Olympics, he served as team manager and was given the honor of accompanying the color guard as part of the opening ceremonies.
After his competitive career ended, Cumiskey was also active in the administration of the sport as a judge and served as technical director of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation and technical director and president of the National Gymnastics Judges Association, serving as the founder of the judges association. Its Hall of Fame bears Cumiskey's name.
An accomplished author, Cumiskey first developed the Who's Who in American Gymnastics with another Hudson County native and standout gymnast, Gene Wettstone. Cumiskey and Wettstone were teammates on the famed Hudson County Swiss Turners team.
Cumiskey wrote another book, entitled "History of Gymnastics" in 1973.
He was also one of the first men inducted into the United States Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1959.
So while you ponder over the recent results in the Olympics, remember the Hudson County native who not only competed in three Olympic games, but was also one of the most respected judges in the sport. - Jim Hague