Yelena Davydova

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Yelena Davydova : biography

7 August 1961 –

Post-Olympic sports achievements

On 3 July 1981 in Montreux, the 100th anniversary celebration of the International Gymnastics Federation took place. Davydova was invited to perform her famous floor exercise which she did twice and won a standing ovation from the people present. In August Elena won the tournament in Giresum,Turkey. She won the AA title and was top scorer on vault, bars, floor and joint top scorer on beam. She scored 10’s on bars and floor. She won the AA title 0.35 ahead of Shaposhnikova,0.8 ahead of Natalia Yurchenko and 1.0 ahead of the 1980 World Cup winner Zakharova.

At the 1981 USSR Championships – the number one national championships in the world at that time – Davydova won the All-Around title plus golds on floor and vault and bronze on bars.No other national championship attracted as much interest in the gymnastics community as the USSR Championship.It was notoriously difficult to win – Latynina was twice Olympic AA champion,twice European AA champion and once World champion before winning the Soviet AA title; Shushunova won 1 World championship,1 European and 1 World Cup before winning the Soviet AA title;Turischeva had won 1 World and 1 European AA title.Others never won it despite success elsewhere e.g. Galina Rudiko World AA champion; Boginskaya,winner of 2 European and 1 World AA titles;Zakharova,winner of 2 World Cup AA titles;Olga Mostepanova,AA winner at the Alternate Olympics 1984.

Davydova also participated in the 1981 World Championships, her last major international event. The USSR won team gold. Davydova contributed more points towards the Soviet team score than anyone else. She finished third in the all-around final after an improper landing in the balance beam event. Had she not sat down on her beam dismount she would have won gold. Davydova suffered a serious neck injury in pre-competition warm up but still finished 3rd AA and was the only gymnast from any nation to make all 4 event finals. Davydova was the total points top scoring gymnast at the 1981 World Championships. She won silver on floor and bronze on bars. She would have won gold on vault but was unable to stand the incredibly difficult vault of her own invention, full twist on front tuck off. Jackie Fie, the US Head Judge on vault at the 81 World championships wrote that if the other vaults were to be marked out of 10 then Davydova’s one should be scored out of 10.5.Davydova’s vault was the pinnacle of the event.It was the most difficult vault of the competition – in either women’s or mens gymnastics. Davydova is the only one who has done a vault that a male gymnast has not. She remains the only IOC Olympic champion, since 1980, to have competed in a World Championships after she had won the Olympic AA title.

British Gymnast magazine, January, 84, p. 33, ”In Olympic Panorama 1982 quoting Olga Korbut : “We perfected our saltos,pirouettes and flic-flacs.In this instance they seemed light and natural,and did not look like a bag of tricks.This is what made the audience gasp.Today this is happening more rarely,perhaps with Elena Davidova alone”.

In October 1981 International Gymnast magazine (IG) chose Davydova as the model for their new IG pin, T-shirt and circulation add. The British Gymnast magazine’s readers voted Davydova gymnast of the year in 80 and 81. At the British national championships for girls in 1982 Davydova was voted the favourite gymnast amongst the gymnasts taking part and was voted second favourite in 1983.

Davydova remained on the Soviet display team until 1984 but retired from competitive gymnastics in late 1982. She was competing on vault at the Rome gymnastics Grand Prix in 82 when she damaged her ankle. Later that year the West German newspaper Die Weltnoted that Elena had had a dangerous fall in training and asked “Will the case of Elena Davidova become a second case Mukhina ?” Thankfully her injury wasn’t as serious. She didn’t want to finish Elite competition gymnastics and talked of defending her Olympic title in L.A. but it became obvious as time went on that her body could no longer stand the pounding of intense workouts.