Jessica Davis (USA)
Tribute courtesy of Robin Catalano

A two-time U.S. National Champion, Jessica Davis is also one of the most accomplished American gymnasts in history. In her six years on the National Team, Davis helped promote the sport and raise the U.S.'s profile on the international scene.

Davis was born in Greenbrae, California, on April 10, 1978. She was introduced to rhythmic by her elementary school teacher in 1987, and took to the sport immediately. With her slim physique and background in ballet, Davis was a natural. Jan Exner at Gymarin Pacific in San Anselmo, California, served as coach to this rising star.

At the 1991 U.S. Junior National Championships, just 4 years after she began the sport, Davis placed 8th all-around and 2nd with ribbon. The following year she shot up to the top of the junior ranks. Although she was too young to compete at the 1992 Olympics, Davis was chosen as a model for Clairol's Olympic sponsorship campaign, and even appeared in a full-page ad in People magazine.

Despite placing 2nd to Olympian Tamara Levinson at the 1993 U.S. National Championships, Davis swept three of the five event finals (hoop, clubs, and ribbon) and won a silver with ball and bronze with rope. She also finished 10th at the 1993 International de Portimao (where she was 4th with hoop), and went on to aid the U.S.'s 15th-place finish at the World Championships. In the preliminary competition she finished 41st, a solid result for an unknown gymnast from a lesser rhythmic power.

In 1994, Davis dropped to 3rd at U.S. Nationals, but notched an impressive 9th-place all-around finish at the International RSG Tournament in France. She was part of the victorious American team at the 1994 Four Continents Championships and placed 8th overall. She then rose dramatically to 25th at that year's World Championships.

After trouncing the field and winning three event finals (rope, ball, and ribbon) at the 1995 U.S. Nationals, Davis competed at the Pan American Games. The judges took notice of the willowy redhead, rewarding her work with the bronze in the all-around, gold in the team event, and silver with clubs and ribbon. At the 1995 Four Continents Championships, she narrowly missed a medal (4th), but compensated with two apparatus silvers (rope, ribbon) and a bronze (clubs).

Davis's position of 32nd at Corbeil in 1995 proved that she was a strong presence in the rhythmic world. To make her point, Davis secured her best World Championships result in 24th place. In doing so, she qualified the U.S. to the 1996 Olympic Games.

Not surprisingly, Davis easily won the 1996 U.S. Nationals. She was also on a roll internationally, placing 16th at the Kalamata Cup, 15th at the Julieta Shishmanova Cup, and 10th at the DTB Cup. But at the 1996 Olympics, a nervous Davis faltered with ribbon. She wound up 30th, thus missing a trip to the all-around semifinal.

The highly photogenic Davis, who is well-known for her textbook ballet skills and delicate expression, performed some of the U.S.'s finest routines. Her soft, elegant 1993 hoop, which included an incredibly difficult foot catch, was a study in beauty. Even better was her 1996 modern ball exercise to Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So." But her masterwork is definitely her ribbon routine to the music of Swan Lake; it was this exercise that gained Davis international recognition and showcased her gorgeous dance, exquisite flexibility skills, and sublime presentation. For all of these reasons, as well as for her competitive results and good sportsmanship, Davis was named  the U.S. Rhythmic Athlete of the Year in 1994 and 1995.

Jessica Davis retired after the 1996 Olympics, but she didn't fade from the public eye. In fact, she appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and performed all over the country in the John Hancock Tour of Olympic Champions. In addition, she still competes in the occasional professional meet. 

Update (June 3, 2000). Davis is currently a junior at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she is majoring in International Relations (with a minor in French). She has just completed a semester abroad in Paris.

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2000-2002. This page was created on February 3, 2000 and last updated on June 3, 2000.