Yelena Davydova

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Yelena Davydova bigraphy, stories - Gymnast

Yelena Davydova : biography

7 August 1961 –

Yelena Victorovna Davydova ( born 7 August 1961 in Voronezh, 500 kilometres south of Moscow), is a former Soviet gymnast. She is the 1980 Olympic all-around champion, and owns Gemini Gymnastics, a high performance gymnastics club in Oshawa, Ontario (Canada) where she is also the head coach. In July 2012, Elena was one of the coaches of the Canadian Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Team. Kristina Vaculik, coached by Elena, was a member of the team, which placed fifth over-all in the team event, the best placement for a Canadian gymnastics team in Olympic history.

Childhood training

Davydova became interested in gymnastics at age six after seeing on television the famous Soviet Olympic gold medallists Larisa Petrik and Natalia Kuchinskaya. She practicised the splits to see if she also could do them. Deciding she wanted to be a gymnast Elena went by herself to be enrolled in Voronezh’s famous Spartak Gymnastics school, yet was turned away, as she was very small, and considered at the time to have the wrong physique for the sport."They would call me Kobolok after the little fairytale pancake". Rather than giving up however, she secretly watched the lessons through windows and tried to imitate in the schoolyard what she had observed.“My Mom wanted me to do Piano and I would run away from it to do gymnastics”.

Soon a coach at the school, Gennady Korshunov, noticed her.She had drawn a balance beam in the sand and was practising moves on it like a real gymnast. He invited her into the school. He asked his wife, Ina, also a gymnastics coach at the school, to train Davydova in her group. Yuri Shtukman, the administrator at the school, did not like this initiative by his new training staff and reprimanded the Korshunovs; however he allowed Davydova to stay in the school. It soon became apparent that she was a talented gymnast and Gennady took over her coaching himself. By 1972 Davydova was the best in her age group at the school.

Full-fledged Olympian

Moscow News

The Soviet Olympic gymnastics team was to be chosen after the USSR Cup competition in Moscow on 19–22 June. For gymnasts of this generation it was a make-or-break contest. The judges and Soviet officials wanted to determine whose gymnastics would stand up best under the extremely high pressure conditions that would exist at the Olympics. It was run according to procedures for the Olympic Games – a full 4 day competition of compulsories, optionals, AA and event finals. Elena had finished joint 6th at the 1976 USSR Cup but that turned out to be insufficient to be placed on the squad. She knew this time only a top 3 place would give her a spot on the team. Davydova won it comfortably and scored a 10 on floor. She finished 0.5 ahead of her nearest rival, Natalia Shaposhnikova, 0.8 ahead of Zakharova, nearly a full 1.0 ahead of Filatova and a galactic 3.375 ahead of Mukhina.

Just before the Olympics, the Romanian Head Coach Béla Károlyi named Davydova as Nadia Comăneci’s main rival for the Olympic title. Frank Taylor, 16 years President of the World Association of Sports Writers and author of "The Comaneci Story", went one step further and predicted Davydova would be the winner. 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 Yelena Davydova, and that if she performed as well as in training, then she would take gold for her daring routines.

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 remained in a wheelchair until her death in December 2006. Davydova kept in contact with her and Mukhina described her as "a real friend". Mukhina was not expected to be on the USSR team.In 1979 she had broken her leg and it didn’t set right. She was unable to master her old skills. In the spring of 1980 the Soviets split the senior elites into 2 groups – those who were on the Olympic squad and those that weren’t. Mukhina had not competed for the first 6 months of 1980 until she finished 14th AA at the USSR Cup. Mukhina was in the 2nd group training in Minsk when the accident happened.