Yelena Davydova : biography
Young competition life
In 1973 Yelena Davydova won her first International Tournament. In 1974 she became a member of the USSR junior squad. At the 1975 USSR junior Championships Davydova finished 3rd AA and won golds on vault and bars. Following her success here she became a member of the senior squad. In March 1976 Davydova achieved 2nd place All-Around at the USSR championships,in her first try as a senior. She also won the gold on bars and a silver on floor. in the Sovetskii Sport magazine Ally Svirsky wrote "Davydova’s exercise included a complex salto between the bars".She added " Davydova’s routines were adorned with many original parts.For example,she took her hands off in a handstand on the high bar and changed the position of her hands.She earned a 10.0".Another Soviet paper wrote "She is so fast it looks like an aeroplane propellor is whirling". At the inaugural American Cup, Davydova astonished the gymnastics world by performing a side somersault on the beam, the first woman to do so. However, she only received 3rd place AA, due to her poor health in the match. The competition was won by Nadia Comăneci, whose gymnastics Yelena Davydova greatly admired. At the USSR Cup Davydova tied for 6th place AA – and won bronze on vault, only 0.025 behind world vault championOlga Korbut — but only the top 5 and one gymnast in 9th place were chosen for the Soviet Olympic team.Sovetski Sport,22 June 1976,”We won’t anticipate the decision of the Training Council who must name the members of the Olympic team.But we shall note that the new wave – M.Filatova,N.Shaposhnikova,E.Davydova and O.Koval – were well prepared and appear to be more useful than the more experienced sportsmen” Larisa Latynina, who had won 18 Olympic medals – a record for either gender in any sport, was the senior coach for the team, and was determined to uphold the classical gymnastics tradition against the new athletic school of gymnastics as represented by Comaneci, Davydova and others.Two days before the Games began The Training Council ( the governing body of Soviet Gymnastics) criticised Latynina for leaving behind Davydova and Shaposhnikova.
In August Davydova won the Antibes tournament in France by 0.6 points. In addition, she won gold on the vault, and silvers on the events beam, bars, and floor. At the Riga International Elena scored the absolute highest score of the competition ( 9.75 on vault) and won silver in the AA competition.She dominated event finals with almost a clean sweep winning 3 gold ( beam,vault,bars)and a bronze on floor.In October, she was made a member of the USSR gymnastics display team, which visited the UK. She subsequently performed her beam routine on the Blue Peter show, an educational/entertainment show for children and teenagers and, was featured in that year’s Blue Peter annual.
In December of ’76, Davydova finished 3rd AA at the Chunichi Cup in Japan, and won a gold on vault and a bronze on floor at the Tokyo Cup. She was the only woman in the competition to perform a front somersault vault. She also tied 1st AA with Kische and Kraker of East Germany. Kische had finished 8th AA at the Montreal Olympics. Despite the presence of Olympians such as Comaneci, Ungureanu, Kim, and Grozdova in the Chunichi Cup, Davydova was described as the "most exciting performer and certainly the most happy bubbly personality". One Japanese sports commentator wrote the prediction that "It was young Yelena 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 Davydova again won the gold medal on bars at the USSR Cup, scoring a full 10.
In September 1977 Yelena Davydova appeared on the front cover of a new magazine with an emphasis on young gymnasts, entitled Gymnastics World. She was one of the four "Mighty Mites" featured in that issue. She was also a member of the USSR Display Team, along woth Kim, Korbut, Grosdova, Filatova and Gorbik that performed in Great Britain. The Daily Mirror programme wrote about Davydova "She is the only girl in the team who has perfected the somersault onto the beam to commence her exercise.In previous years she has held most of the national titles for girls and one time held all the junior titles of the Soviet Union".