Our champions: Elena Davydova
Olympic Champion in Moscow in 1980 and World Champion in 1981, Elena Davydova was a gymnast renowned for her audacity in performance, her innovation and her charm. Today, as Head Coach at Gemini Gymnastics in Ontario and as an International Brevet Judge, the former gymnast still maintains her enthusiasm, determination and passion for the sport.
Born in Voronezh, 500 kilometres south of Moscow, Elena dreamt of being a gymnast from a very young age. She preferred doing cartwheels in the sand outside her home to the piano lessons which her mother insisted upon.
When she first applied to the celebrated Spartak Gymnastics school in Voronezh, very few people saw her potential to become a champion. She was turned away, but secretly watched the gymnasts exercising through the school windows and then, repeated those exercises on her own. Finally, a coach at the school, Gennadiy Korshunov, noticed her and within a few years rose to become one of the top gymnasts in the Soviet Union.
Shortly before the 1980 Olympics, Bela Karolyi, the head coach of the Romanian Olympic team, stated that, “Elena Davydova was the biggest rival to Nadia Comaneci.” In fact, after a heated battle in the all-around final, Davydova was proclaimed Olympic Champion ahead of the Queen of the Montréal Olympics.
“I will never forget that competition,” says Elena. “I still have very vivid memories of the bond I created with my fellow gymnasts, of how proud I was to represent my country, of the crowd and of course the fact that I fulfilled my greatest dream. Those moments and feelings will remain with me forever.”
She also vividly remembers the excitement and enthusiasm which surrounded Nadia at the time, though she admits she did not pay much attention to it. “Everybody is human and can make mistakes. I was only thinking to do my job at the best of my capacities. Nadia was incredible to watch. We are still friends to this day, which is great.”
A successful coach and official
Today, Elena is a proud Canadian citizen and tries to give the very best of herself to help younger athletes achieve their ambitions. She uses her own experiences to help them. “I believe that it helps them to know that I have been through the same processes and experience. I truly understand their ups and downs.”
In 2012, her protégée, Kristina Vaculik, was selected to the Canadian team for the London Olympics. The team achieves the best-ever performance in the country’s history. Furthermore, another gymnasts training under her supervision, Jade Chrobok and Ana Padurariu, have just won gold in their respective category at the Élite Canada 2017 competition, which brings together the very best gymnasts from all over the country.
Elena has also been an International Brevet Judge for the past four years. She has judged at 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and was recently selected to the FIG Technical Committee, a first for the country. She will be part of the 2017 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Montreal as an official.