Elena Davydova

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.(I wrote this article on Wikipedia.I have changed Yelena to Elena for the benefit of those searching for information on her.It is a work in progress and i will add to it whenever i learn something new about her ).

Elena Victorovna Davydova , (born August 7, 1961 in Voronezh,a city about 400 miles south of Moscow), is a Russian (former Soviet) gymnast, winner of the Olympic all-around title in 1980 Summer Olympics.

Elena became interested in gymnastics at age six after seeing on television the famous Soviet Olympic gold medallists Larissa Petrik and Natasha Kuchinskaya.Elena went by herself to Voronezh's famous Spartak Gymnastics sports school founded in 1935.(In 1962 a gymnastics school section was founded by the father of modern Soviet gymnastics,Yuri Shtukman).But Elena was turned away as she was very small and considered to have the wrong physique for the sport.Rather than give up she secretly watched through the windows what the coaches were teaching and tried to learn in the schoolyard what she had observed. One day a coach not long at the school,Gennady Korshunov,noticed Elena and invited her in.He asked his wife,Irina,also a gymnastics coach at the school to let Elena join her group.Shtukman didn't like this initiative by new training staff and reprimanded the Korshunovs but let elena stay on.It soon became apparent that she was a talented gymnast and Gennady took over coaching her himself.By 1972 elena was the best in her age group at the school.

In 1973 elena won her first International Tournament.In 1974 Davydova became a member of the USSR junior squad and in 1975 a member of the senior squad.In March 1976 she came 2nd place All-Around at the USSR championships.Although feeling unwell she came 3rd AA at the inaugural American Cup.Davydova astonished the gymnastics world by performing a side somersault on the beam,the first woman to do so.The competition was won by Nadia Comaneci whose gymnastics Elena greatly admired.At the USSR cup Elena tied for 6th place AA - and won bronze on vault,only 0.025 behind Olga Korbut - but the top 5 and 9th placed were chosen as the Soviet Olympic team.Larissa Semyonova Latynina(who had won 18 Olympic medals - a record for either sex in any sport)was the senior coach and was determined to uphold the classical gymnastics tradition against the new athletic school of gymnastics as represented by Comaneci,Davydova and others. In August Elena won the Antibes tounament in France by 0.6 points and won a gold on vault and silvers on beam,bars and floor.She finished 2nd AA at the Riga International winning golds on beam,bars and vault and a bronze on floor in event finals.In october she was a member of the USSR gymnastics display team which visited the UK.She performed her beam routine on the "Blue Peter" show,an educational/entertainment show for children and teenagers and was featured in that years "Blue Peter" annual.In December 76 Elena finished 3rd AA at the Chunichi Cup in Japan and won gold on vault and bronze on floor at the Tokyo cup.She was the only girl in the competition to perform a front somersault vault.Despite the presence of Olympians Comaneci,Ungureanu,Kim,Grozdova etc Davydova was described as the "most exciting performer and certainly the most happy bubbly personality".One Japanese sports commentator wrote this prophecy "It was young Elena Davydova who deserved special attention for her super difficult exercises.She is a new infant prodigy for the Soviet Union,no less talented than Kim,Turischeva or Filatova".In 1977 Elena won the gold medal on bars at the USSR championships,scoring a 10. In September 1977 Elena appeared on the front cover of a new magazine with an emphasis on young gymnasts entitled Gymnastics World.She was one of the 4 "Mighty Mites" featured in that issue.Elena suffered a serious injury when a bone detached from her knee.A Medical specialist told her her injury could be repaired by surgery but that she would never be a gymnast again.But Elena perservered.

In 1978 Gennady Korshunov and his wife were invited to coach gymnastics in Leningrad where Gennady was originally from and where he had survived as a child during the Nazi siege of the city in World War Two.Elena and her family moved there also.Elena won silver AA at the Spartakiade of Russian Federation sports schools and bronze AA at the USSR Cup,being the top scorer on beam and bars.Elena won the AA title at the prestigious Chunichi cup in Japan defeating Maxi Gnauck.Elena also won gold on bars and vault at the Tokyo cup.Elena was chosen to be a member of the USSR team at the World Championships at Strasbourg in France.But on the day of competition she was named as alternate instead of being able to compete. Brian Bakalar,owner and head coach at Gymnastics Revolution in Bethel,Connecticut,USA wrote on his website in 2005 "In the late 1970's Elena Davydova first performed a skill that has become the basis for todays optional uneven bar routines - the Giant".In terms of difficulty Elena advanced the sport of gymnastics and is one of a select few to have introduced a new move and/or trend on each piece of apparatus.The sport is different because of her.Davydova was the first female gymnast to perform a Giant and a Tkatchev on bars;a front tuck and side-somi on beam,a round-off flic-flac,which led to many of the different dismounts we have today;a 1 1/2 twist,punch front combination and an Arabian 1 3/4 somersault on floor (since banned for female gymnasts by the FIG for health and safety reasons);on vault she invented the full twist-on,tucked front somersault off (worth 9.7 twentyfive years later.Many gymnasts in 1980 performed the layout Tsukahara vault,now worth 9.1 under the current Code of Points).

At the 1979 Coca-Cola International in England Elena won gold on floor and would have shared gold on bars but her coach blocked the line of vision of one of the judges and Yelena suffered the mandatory 0.3 deduction.She finished 2nd AA at the Simo Sappien memorial tournament in Finland.Elena was unable to attend the 1979 World Championships in Fort Worth,USA,because of flu.At the World University Games in Mexico Elena won team gold,3rd AA, and a silver medal on floor and bronze on vault in event finals. In 1979 Olga Korbut named Davydova,Stella Zakharova and Natalia Shaposhnikova as the 3 most promising young gymnasts.

At the 1980 Moscow News tournament Davydova amazed the experts again by performing a full-on,full off vault.This vault had only ever been done before by Olga Korbut.In the 1980 Code Of Points it was one of only a few vaults having a 10 start value.Elena won a gold and 3 silver at the Moscow News Tournament.At the 1980 USSR Championships Yelena won gold on vault and 3rd AA. The Soviet Olympic gymnastics team was to be chosen after The USSR Cup competition in june in Kiev.Davydova won it comfortably and scored a 10 on floor.She finished 0.5 ahead of her nearest rival,Shaposhnikova. Just before the Olympics the Romanian Head Coach,Bela Karolyi,named Davydova as Nadia Comaneci's main rival for the Olympic title.BBC radio reported on podium training at the Olympics,discussing the established stars but added that on the basis of what they had seen they advised viewers to watch out for Elena Davydova and that if she performed as well as in training then she would take gold as her exercises were more exciting and daring than the more well known gymnasts.

Missing from the 1980 Olympics was the 1978 World Champion,Elena Mukhina,who had been paralysed after an accident while training.She was unable to speak for 6 months and remains in a wheelchair to this day.Davydova has always kept in contact with her and Mukhina describes her as "a real friend".

In the team competition - whose scores counted towards both AA medals and event finals - Davydova was hampered by performing 4th for her team before Kim and Shaposhnikova - Comaneci and Gnauck performed 6th for their respective teams.The scores tend to go up with each routine - known as the staircase effect - giving the gymnasts performing last for their team a head start when it came to scoring. Only 3 members out of 6 from any team could go through to the All-Around final and only 2 to an event final.Davydova qualified for 2 event finals - beam and vault - but would have qualified for bars and floor event finals also had she competed last for her team instead of 4th. Nadia scored a 10 on beam in compulsories,her first perfect score on beam in a major competition since 1977.Elena performed very solidly,scoring 39.4,but finished the first day in 7th place behind 3 of her own team and equal with another.The leaders were Comaneci and Shaposhnikova,both scoring 39.85.At this stage of the competition in Montreal 76 Nadia had scored 39.35.

In the optional exercises Elena came into her own,outscoring all her teammates and meriting a 10 on floor.Barbara Slater,who had been a British gymnast in Montreal and was a tv commentator in 1980,described Davydova's floor exercise as the "performance of the Olympics".Nik Stuart,9 times British AA champion and the first British national coach,"Her floor exercise is the most complex ever designed for a female gymnast,full of difficulty and fluidity".US gymnast Karen Le Mond stated that Davydova's fx had "harder tumbling passes than the best 10 has ever had".Glenn Sundby,editor of International Gymnast magazine,"Davydova would have won anywhere on this earth with that floor routine". During this part of the competition Nadia fell from bars attempting a Hecht 1/2,a move she had also fallen from at the 1979 World Cup.The judges gave her a 9.5,which means she would have scored a 10 without the fall.Nadia scored 39.2.

Thursday July 24th began the All-Around final.Elena began in 5th place.In first place was Gnauck,East Germany,then Shaposhnikova USSR,3rd Eberle Romania,4th Comaneci Romania. Elena began on beam,Nadia on floor - a disadvantage for Davydova because there is such a premium of accuracy in the beam exercise that the gymnast prefers to be fully attuned to the rigours of that days competition before attempting it. There were only 4 routines left for each gymnast to compete.With 2 down and 2 to go the places were now : Gnauck 1st,Davydova 2nd,Shaposhnikova and Comaneci joint 3rd.Nadia then scored a 10 on bars,the only gymnast to receive a perfect score that night.(It was her first perfect score on bars in a major competition since the 1976 Olympics). Maxi held the lead until her last routine when she vaulted insecurely.She scored 9.7,on a vault with a start value of 9.9,the same as she had scored for this vault at 1979 European Championships in Denmark and 79 World Championships in USA.

Elena had scored 9.85 on beam,9.95 on floor,9.9 on vault.She now had her bars exercise left to compete.Only a great exercise would be good enough.But bars had a casualty list of high profile gymnasts - Nadia and Dumitreatu Turner had fallen during the team competition,Vera Caslavska fell at 64 Olympics event final,Natasha Kutchinskaya at 67 Europeans,Kuchinskaya fell at 68 Olympics,Korbut lost her chance of being Olympic AA champion in 72,losing the gold medal and finishing 7th,Turischeva in 75 Europeans,Kim and Korbut 76 Olympics event final,Elena Namushina and Nadia 79 Europeans,Shaposhnikova,Zakharova and Maria Filatova 79 Worlds.A mistake by Davydova would result in gold for either Gnauck or Comaneci. Elena's exercise included a Tkatchev (which no other female gymnast could do at the time),long swing 1.5 pirouette,Giant.Anton Gadjos,in his 1997 book,"Artistic Gymnastics : A history of development" highlights Davydova's Tkatchev from the 80 Olympics.The FIG website describes this exercise as "Fantastic". A minute after she had left the podium her score came up - 9.95.Elena was in the lead and only Comaneci could overtake her.

Nadia needed a score of 9.925 to tie or more than that to win the gold outright.The last time Nadia had scored as high as this in an AA final was at the 76 Olympics.Out of the 100 optional beam exercises performed at the 1980 Olympics only 1 scored as high as Nadia needed. After one of her back flips Nadia had to flail her arms for balance.Her knee bent slightly under 360 degree rotation.There was a pause between her front aeriel and side aeriel.She landed slightly askew,taking a step back (normally a 0.1 deduction).

The controversy began when no score was registered on the scoreboard.For half an hour gymnastics stole the screen from all the other sports and even the adverts on western tv stations were delayed. Deductions were taken in tenths by the judges ie 0 if the judge thought the exercise was perfect,0.1,0.2,0.3 etc.The marks were 10 from the Bulgarian judge,9.9 from the Czech judge,9.8 from both the Soviet and Polish judges.With the top and bottom marks being discarded,and the remaining 2 being added together and then divided by 2,this gave Nadia a score of 9.85.This gave her a shared silver with Gnauck.Shaposhnikova finished 4th but would have shared a silver medal with them had she scored 0.05 extra.

Head Judge on beam,Maria Simionescu of Romania,refused to enter the score as it meant that Comaneci would not win gold.Madame Simionescu had been the Romanian womens gymnastics team coach at the 1956,60,64 Olympics.She had helped found the gymnastics school where Nadia trained.She had been a friend of Nadias since Nadia's childhood and had given her ballet training.She had travelled with the Romanian team numerous times and socialised with them.She would intervene again in beam event final to restrict the score of Shaposhnikova which would give Comaneci beam gold.Nadia repeated her score of 9.85 here. Although the Romanian Head Judge delayed the score of her fellow Romanian,holding up the AA competition for 28 minutes,it was eventually registered.The other Soviet gymnasts aided by an East German and a Swedish gymnast tossed Elena in the air in celebration.

The Soviet womens gymnastics team finished the 1980 Summer Olympics with 8 medals,the same as in Montreal but less than they had won at any previous Olympics.In percentage terms they won 38% of the medals awarded,less than at any previous Olympics. The Soviets won only 1 AA medal.In each Olympics before that they had always won 2 and in 1960 had won all 3.At the alternative Olympics Olomouc 84 and Seoul Olympics 88 they would win 2 again. The Soviet team won the team gold medal by 1.4 points.They had won team gold in Montreal by 3.2 points. In bars event final 5 of the 6 gymnasts won medals (2 Romanians - silver and bronze,2 East Germans - gold and bronze,1 Soviet - bronze).The unlucky gymnast by 0.05 was a Soviet. Romania won 7 medals,the same number as they had won in Montreal.For the first time ever at the Olympics a Romanian gymnast medals on each piece of apparatus in event finals.This they had never achieved before and achieved only once again in the next 6 Olympics.They won 2 gold,1 silver,2 bronze in event finals - only 1 bronze less than the USSR. Of the 7 perfect scores awarded at the 1980 Summer Olympics 4 went to Romanian gymnasts,2 to Soviet and 1 to an East German. At Montreal in 1976 between the team competition and AA finals the judges deducted Nadia 1.2 points from her start values.In Moscow 1980 she was also deducted 1.2 points.Or to put it another way- for the 11 routines Nadia was deducted 1.2 in Montreal she was deducted 0.7 in Moscow (omitting her team optional bars score where she fell). Comaneci had outscored Davydova by 0.45 in compulsories but Davydova outscored her in all other stages of the competition where they met.Davydova outscored her by 0.4 in optionals,0.1 in AA final,0.3 in event finals.

Davydova appeared on the front cover of the European edition of Newsweek magazine,issue August 4th 1980.She was voted 14th best female athlete in the world that year.In the Soviet Union,a flower was named after the 2 Elenas - Davydova and Namushina. Under the present Olympic AA scoring system - New Life - Davydova would have won the 1980 AA title by a larger margin and would have won gold on beam.In addition to the AA gold,Davydova won a gold medal with the team and a silver medal on balance beam.While recognised as the best vaulter in event finals Yelena failed to stand her second vault and thus failed to medal.This vault is described below in the paragraph on the 1981 World Championships.

Davydova won AA gold exactly 2 weeks before her 19th birthday-older than nearly all recent Olympic gymnastic AA champions.

While there was some criticism of Davydova's victory in the general press this was mainly by reporters who didn't know how gymnastics was scored. Within the gymnastics community itself there was little doubt about the validity of Davydova's win : Nadia Comaneci herself in her book,"Letters to a young Gymnast",acknowledges "That day,Yelena just performed better"; John Goodbody in his book "The illustrated history of Gymnastics", 1982, wrote that Davydova was successful because of her "consistency and her willingness to take risks"- over 3 days of competition her lowest score was a 9.8 ;Glenn Sundby,then editor of the International Gymnast (IG) magazine,and founder member of the United States Gymnastics Federation and the International Gymnastics Hall OF Fame and the first Gymnastics World Cup ; Zacharias Nikolaidis,editor of the Greek Gymnastics magazine Dynamiko ; Ursel Baer,a British judge at the 80 Olympics,"Davydova richly deserved to be Olympic champion"; Elisa Estape,a Spanish coach who had all the routines filmed and evaluated praised Davydova's routines in the highest terms and said she should have won by more ; Paul Williams,another British judge there,"Davydova fully deserved her gold medal,with a brilliant display of high quality work"; Maxi Gnaucks coach Juergen Heritz ; Lyn Moran,assistant editor of IG and author of the book "The young Gymnasts" ; Peter Shilston,columnist,British Gymnast magazine ; John Rodda in his book "The Olympic Games".

On July 3rd 1981 in Montreux,the 100th anniversary celebration of the International Gymnastics Federation took place.Davydova was invited to perform her famous floor exercise which she did twice and won a standing ovation from the people present. At the 1981 USSR Championships - the number one national championships in the world at that time - Davydova won the All-Around title plus golds on floor and vault and bronze on bars.

Davydova also participated in the 1981 World Championships, her last major international event. She finished third in the all-around final after under-rotating her beam dismount.Had she not sat down on her beam dismount she would have won gold.Davydova suffered a serious neck injury in pre-competition warm up but still finished 3rd AA and was the only gymnast from any nation to make all 4 event finals.She won silver on floor and bronze on bars.She would have won gold on vault but was unable to stand the incredibly difficult vault of her own invention,full twist on front tuck off.Jackie Fie,the US Head Judge on vault at the 81 World championships wrote that if the other vaults were to be marked out of 10 then Davydova's one should be scored out of 10.5.Davydova is the only one who has done a vault that a male gymnast hasn't.Elena remains the only IOC Olympic champion,since 1980, to have competed in a World Championships after she had won the Olympic AA title. The USA had a good competition at the 81 Worlds.Julianne McNamara finished 7th AA - the highest place all-around finish for an American woman until Brandy Johnson also finished 7th AA at 89 Worlds.The US won 2 medals in event finals,one of their best results.McNamara finished 5th on beam but would have won silver had she not gone overtime on her exercise. The Chinese women's team won team silver and 2 medals in event finals.It would be their best result in a World Championship or Olympics until 1995. Romania had a poor competition.Their main coaches,Bela and Marta Karolyi and their choreographer Geza Pozsar,had defected to the US in April.Romania did reasonably well at the European championships and following that all their training was geared towards the World University Games which were being held in Romania.According to an official of the Romanian gymnastics federation their girls could not peak for a third time that year.

In October 1981 International Gymnast magazine (IG) chose Davydova as the model for their new IG pin,t-shirt and circulation add.The British Gymnast magazine's readers voted Davydova gymnast of the year in 80 and 81.At the British national championships for girls in 1982 Davydova was voted the favourite gymnast amongst the gymnasts taking part and was voted second favourite in 1983. Elena remained on the Soviet display team until 1984 but retired from competitive gymnastics in late 1982. Elena attended the Leningrad University of Physical education and later received her doctorate in Pedagogical science at the P.F.Lesgraft state institute of athletic education.The title of her thesis was "Nontraditional preparation of top gymnasts for competitions" and with it she was assisted by world famous professors of medicine Kima Ivanova and Leonid Korolev.Upon graduation,in 1987,Elena began coaching and served as an international Brevet judge.

Davydova married boxing coach Pavel Filatov on June 1st 1983.They have two sons,Dmitrii (born February 21 1985) and Anton (June 28 1995).The family moved to Canada in 1991.Davydova now works there as Head Coach with Gemini Gymnastics,a non-profit parent run club,in Oshawa,Ontario.Some of her better known gymnasts include Stephanie Capucitti,Sarah Deegan,Danielle Hicks,Katherine Fairhurst,Kristina Vaculik,Brittnee Habbib,Kelsey Hope.Elena was beam coach for the Canadian women's team at the 1995 World Championships and one of the Canadian women's team coachs at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.Davydova was twice named Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique coach of the year.

Her parents are now retired.Her father Victor was a mechanic and her mother Tamara was employed at the Leningrad optical and mechanical works.Her brother Yuri,who is 12 years youger than Yelena,still lives in Russia also. In its 1991 publication,Objectif An 2000,the FIG have a section entitled "Some of the Gymnasts who contributed to the Major Developments".18 female Artistic gymnasts are named of whom Davydova is one.On the IG website they feature "Legends of Gymnastics".15 female Artistic gymnasts are profiled,one of whom is Davydova.In 2000 Elena was one of the gymnasts pictured in the International Gymnast's (IG) Millenium calendar.







International Gymnast magazine feb 77 p.28-30 july 80 p.30 aug 80 p.26 sept 80 p.6,15,29. oct 80 p.11,21 nov 80 p.30-31 dec 80 p.48-50,62,70. mar 81 p.6 Aug 81 p.42-43 jan 82 p.28 mar 82 p.75 jan 98 p.49

British Gymnast magazine sept 80 p.7,11,13-15,21-24,26,31 apr 81 p. 11,21-24 sept 81 p.29 nov 81 p.25

FIG WOrld Gymnastics magazine Vol 2,num 3 vol 3,num 1 vol 4,num 1.

The Illustrated History of Gymnastics,John Goodbody,1982,p.78-92.

Soviet Gymnastic Stars,Vladimir Golubev,1979,p.163,207.

638 Olympic Champions,Valeri Steinbach,1984,p.217,218.

Wonderful moment of victory,1983,p.8 -14.

Artistic Gymnastics : A history of development,Anton Gadjos,1997,p.264,265.

FIG Objectif An 2000,1991,p.122.

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