Of all the apparatus that women compete in gymnastics, beam might be the one that has changed the least, it has had the same measurements for more than 80 years. It has suffered some minor changes, though: originally made of wood, through time, it has softened its edges and it added a suede cover first and later the hard wood was replaced by foam rubber and plywood, and it also added some padding at the ends to avoid injuries on dismount.

From the simple balance elements that were common from the 1930s to the early 1950s, routines slowly evolved to be more focused on dance elements combined with balance elements, which dominated most of the 1960s gymnastics, with the appearance of some timid mild acrobatic elements from the mid-1960s, but the routines were still paused, gymnasts held every position for several seconds and exercises contained very few skills. The average age for gymnasts was mid to late 20s. Then, in 1969, at the Gymnastics International Meet between Japan and the Soviet Union, a 13-year-old girl, called Olga Korbut and did a backwards tucked somersault on beam, something that nobody had seen before. She did a completely different type of gymnastics, performing new original daring skills at a much faster pace than the other gymnasts. Judges were not ready for such a radical change and wouldn't give her the type of scores that the other gymnast would receive (hence not taking into account the extra difficulty). Olga was ahead of her time, but she changed the course of gymnastics forever. Korbut never won a world title on beam, but she won an Olympic title in this event, and there is still an element performed on beam that bears her name.