Yelena Davydova

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Yelena Davydova : biography

7 August 1961 –

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 Comăneci 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). Neil Admur, New York Times, 25 July 1980, A17, "The drama on the final rotation added to the suspense. Miss Gnauck was second among the 9 gymnasts on the vault, Miss Davydova seventh on the bars and Miss Comaneci eight on the beam". Maxi Gnauck 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 United States.Barry Lorge,Washington Post,25 July 1980,p. 9,”Gnauck,first of the contenders up in the fourth and final rotation.Her first vault looked good but was too safe : 9.7.She knew she had to do better but she buckled on the landing of her second vault”. Peter Aykroyd,International Gymnastics : Sport,Art or Science ?,1987,p. 68,”She went into the all-round finals with a slight lead,but weak vaulting lost her this advantage”.

Yelena Davydova had scored 9.85 on beam, 9.95 on floor (Comaneci has described Davydova’s routine as "Excellent"), 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 – and had cost many of them a medal. A mistake by Davydova would result in gold for either Gnauck or Comaneci. Davydova’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.At the time it was a skill beyond the reach of all other women gymnasts. The New York Times noted that she “performed beautifully”. The LA Times “A sterling performance”. The Washington Post,”Davydova performed a fabulous routine,boldly and confidently”. The FIG website describes this exercise as “Fantastic”. United States Olympic book 1980,United States Olympic Committee,p. 141,”She approached the apparatus with the aplomb and poise of a gymnast several years her senior.Every move Davydova made on the uneven parallel bars was the move of a champion,a queen of all gymnasts”. A minute after she had left the podium her score came up – 9.95. Davydova was in the lead and only Comaneci could overtake her.

Nadia Comăneci needed a score of 9.925 to tie or more than that to win the gold outright. The last time she 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 Comaneci needed. After one of her back flips Comaneci had to flail her arms for balance. She broke the connection between her aerial walkover to aerial cartwheel with a pause. Her knee bent slightly under 360 degree rotation. She landed slightly askew, taking a step back (normally a 0.1 deduction). United States Olympic book,1980,United States Olympic Committee,p. 141,commented on Comanecis beam routine “She was good but not great”.

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, i.e. 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 Comăneci a score of 9.85. This gave her a shared silver with Maxi Gnauck. Natalia Shaposhnikova finished 4th but would have shared a silver medal with them had she scored 0.05 extra.