Yelena Davydova

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Yelena Victorovna Davydova (Russian: Еле́на Ви́кторовна Давы́дова, born August 7, 1961 in Voronezh, 400 miles south of Moscow), is a Russian (formerly, Soviet) gymnast. She is the 1980 Olympic All-Around Champion.


Childhood training

Davydova became interested in gymnastics at age six after seeing on television the famous Soviet Olympic gold medallists Larissa Petrik and Natalia Kuchinskaya. She attempted alone to be enrolled in Voronezh's famous Spartak Gymnastics school, yet was turned away, as she was very small, and considered at the time to have the wrong physique for the sport. Rather than giving up however, she secretly watched the lessons through windows and tried to imitate in the schoolyard what she had observed.

Soon a coach at the school, Gennady Korshunov, noticed her and invited into the school. He asked his wife, Irina, also a gymnastics coach at the school, to train Davydova in her group. Yuri Shtukman, the administrator at the school, did not like this initiative by his new training staff and reprimanded the Korshunovs; however he allowed Davydova to stay in the school. It soon became apparent that she was a talented gymnast and Gennady took over her coaching himself. By 1972 Davydova was the best in her age group at the school.

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. She also won the gold on bars and a silver on floor. 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 Olga Korbut — but only the top 5 and one gymnast in 9th place were chosen for the Soviet Olympic team. Larissa Semyonovna 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.

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