Yelena Davydova

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Yelena Davydova : biography

7 August 1961 –

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 rise 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 two event finals – beam and vault – but it is believed would have qualified for bars and floor event finals also, had she competed last for her team instead of 4th on the list.

Nadia Comăneci scored a 10 on beam in compulsories, her first perfect score on beam in a major competition since 1977. Yelena Davydova performed very solidly, scoring 39.4, but finished the first day in 7th place behind 3 of her own teammates and equal with another. The leaders were Comaneci and Shaposhnikova, both scoring 39.85. At this stage of the competition in Montreal 76 Comaneci had scored 39.35.

In the optional exercises Davydova 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, stated that "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". Another commentator wrote "No gymnast of either sex has ever attempted so complicated or complex a routine". The FIG website praises her "delightful dance movements". Glenn Sundby, editor of International Gymnast magazine, commented that "Davydova would have won anywhere on this earth with that floor routine". This routine is also praised in Michael Murphy’s 1992 book "The Future of The Body". This was only the 2nd time a perfect score of 10 had been scored on fx at an Olympics; it was the 1st ever 10 scored in team optionals fx and the only 10 scored on fx – in either women’s or men’s gymnastics – at the 1980 Olympics.

During this part of the competition Nadia Comăneci 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. Comaneci scored 39.2.

Special skills

In terms of difficulty Elena advanced the sport of gymnastics extended its limits and is one of a select few to have introduced a new move and/or trend on each piece of apparatus. Brian Bakalar, owner and head coach at Gymnastics Revolution in Bethel, Connecticut, U.S. wrote on his website in 2004 that "In the late 1970s Elena Davydova first performed a skill that has become the basis for today’s optional uneven bar routines – the Giant". Indeed, Davydova advanced the difficulty of gymnastics through the introduction of her moves, and is one of a select few to have introduced a new move and/or trend on each piece of apparatus. Davydova was the first female gymnast to perform a Giant and a Tkatchev on bars; a front tuck and side-somi on the beam, a round-off flic-flac, which led to many of the different dismounts we have today; a 1½ twist, punch front combination, an Arabian 1¾ somersault, and a piked Arabian 1¾ somersault on floor (both Arabian 1¾ moves removed from the code of points for female gymnasts by the FIGin 1993 for health and safety reasons. Effectively banned because of their danger and difficulty.This skill was also forbidden to male gymnasts at the 2010 Youth Olympics); on vault she invented the full twist-on, tucked front somersault off. This is worth 9.7 points, 25 years later today. Many gymnasts in 1980 performed the layout Tsukahara vault, now worth 9.1 under the current Code of Points.This famous vault she invented created an entire different vault family in the COP. Vera Atkinson,FIG World of Gymnastics,”Three of the Greatest”,March 2008,p. 8-9,”Gymnastics high tech contributor…Pundits describe Davydova’s contribution to the technical development of the sport as being unique”.