Yelena Davydova


Yelena Davydova : biography

7 August 1961 –

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 women’s gymnastics team coach at the 1956, 1960, 1964 Olympics. She had helped found the gymnastics school where Comaneci trained. Simionescu had been a friend of her since Comaneci’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 Comăneci 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 Davydova in the air in celebration. At the 59th FIG General Assembly there was criticism of some of the judges at the 1980 Olympics.But the only Head Judge criticised – in either the men’s or women’s competition – was Simionescu. The report which included this criticism was accepted unanimously by the 48 Federation delegate present.In 1984,before the LA Olympics,the United States Gymnastics Federation proposed “When the average score of a gymnast is 9.8 or above,the Head judge should not be permitted to have discussion with any of the other judges concerning the final score".

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 4 August 1980. She was voted 14th best female athlete in the world that year. In the Soviet Union, a flower was named after the 2 Yelenas – Davydova and Naimushina. 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 Davydova failed to stand her second vault and thus failed to medal. This vault is described below in the paragraph on the 1981 World Championships.In 1980 the gymnasts performed 2 different vaults and the scores were averaged instead of taking the best of the 2 scores as in Montreal Olympics ef.Davydova would have won gold with her 1st vault – scoring 9.95 – if the Montreal rules had still applied. Donnerstag 215,11 September 1980,”This gymnast led the way into the future in the vault finals,where she performed a flip flop salto with a pirouette off the board”.

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

C.Robert Paul jr,first sports information Director and Director communications for the United States Olympic Committee,United States Olympic book 1980,p. 140-141,(On Davydova),”There was never a doubt about her all-around abilities.Simply stated,however,it was expected that judges,by their very nature,might favour the better known and more established international stars…But the order of finish Davydova,Gnauck and Comaneci (tie),Shaposhnikova and Kim certainly accurately reflects the relative abilities of the worlds top gymnasts”.

While there was some criticism of Davydova’s victory in the general press this was mainly by reporters who did not know how gymnastics was scored . Within the gymnastics community itself there was little doubt about the validity of Davydova’s win: Nadia Comăneci herself acknowledges "That day, Yelena just performed better"; John Goodbody 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 Gnauck’s coach Juergen Heritz; Lyn Moran, assistant editor of IG and author of the book "The young Gymnasts"; Jeff Cheales, an Australian judge; Tom Ecker, author of "Olympic Facts and Fables"; Peter Shilston, columnist, British Gymnast magazine; John Rodda in his book "The Olympic Games";The Sony guide to Who’s Who in The 1984 Olympics,1984,p. 125,Edited by Dick Emery,;Frank Taylor,16 years President of the World Association of Sports Writers and author of “The Comaneci Story”;Karen Inskip-Hayward,”The Golden Decade : women’s gymnastics in the 1980s;Tony Duffy and Paul Wade Winning Women : The Changing Face of Women in Sport,p. 96,1982;C.Robert Paul jr,first sports information Director and Director communications for the United States Olympic Committee,United States Olympic book 1980,p. 140-141 ; The Book of Olympic Lists 2012 p.96 David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky ISBN 9781845137731 ; The Complete Book of the Olympics 2012 Edition p. 784-5 David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky ISBN 9781845136956 ; The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC Athens to London 1894-2012 p.235 David Miller ISBN 9781845966119.