Author: Nadir SANANOGLU
The past year will be memorable for the abundance of significant events in national sport. In total, Azerbaijani athletes received 851 medals in various prestigious tournaments held during the whole year.
"In 2017, our athletes participated in 234 international competitions, including world and European championships. We hosted 55 international competitions, the most significant of which was the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games," said the Minister of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan Azad Rahimov.
The strongest athletes of the Islamic world
The 4th Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku was truly a historic event for Azerbaijan. Despite hosting such a prestigious international tournament for the first time, Azerbaijan managed to ensure the high level of organization. The Islamiad was recognized as the best sport event held in Baku so far.
More than 3,000 athletes attended the Games from 54 countries, accompanied by 1,000 officials and the same number of technical personnel. These are record figures in the history of this tournament. More than a thousand media representatives have also been accredited for the coverage of the competitions.
Athletes from the Islamic world fought for 269 sets of medals in 24 various competitions. In total, representatives of forty countries were awarded 886 medals. Of these, Azerbaijani athletes won 75 gold, 50 silver and 37 bronze medals.
By the total number of awards, Azerbaijan lost only to Turkey. At the same time, according to the number of gold medals, the domestic athletes defeated the Turkish team, having received four more gold medals. Thus, for the first time in its history, Azerbaijan was recognized as the strongest in the multi-sport competition. Prior to this, the highest result was the second place at the 1st European Games of 2015.
For the first time in the Champions League
For the first time in the history of Azerbaijani football, the national champion Garabagh made it to the Champions League, which the Azerbaijani fans have never dreamed of. In fact, it takes a certain amount of time to fully understand this achievement. According to many commentators, the participation of Garabagh in the Champions League for Azerbaijan at the current historical stage is tantamount to winning the Summer Olympics. This is the greatest achievement in the history of national sport in collective types.
For many years, Azerbaijani fans also dreamed of holding the final meeting of the Champions League or the Euroleague in Baku. In 2017, it was revealed that Azerbaijan was entrusted the organization of the Euroleague finals (season 2018/2019), the second prestigious club tournament of the continent.
This year, it is expected that a new state program for the development of football will be adopted. "On the instructions of the President, a program is prepared that meets modern requirements. It is planned to adopt it in 2018 or 2019," said minister Rahimov.
Gymnastics: sports results and political authority
The past year was also memorable by the number of significant events for Azerbaijani gymnastics. At the end of the year, Farid Gaibov, Secretary General of the Azerbaijan Federation of Gymnastics, was elected president of the European Union of Gymnastics (EUG). He became the first national of Azerbaijan to hold the presidency of this international sports organization.
As for the sport results, in February, Azerbaijani gymnasts finished with three silver medals the World Cup competition in trampoline and tumbling. In March, our athletes received a bronze medal of the World Cup stage in men's and women's gymnastics of the FIG series.
At the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games, Azerbaijani athletes won 4 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals in artistic gymnastics and 5 gold, 5 silver and 2 bronze medals in sport gymnastics.
At the traditional Grand Prix in 2017, the team of adults in group exercises in rhythmic gymnastics was awarded a silver medal in the all-around, and two gold medals in separate compositions.
Our duo of athletes Veronika Zemlyanaya and Svetlana Makshtarova were ranked the second in synchronous jumps on trampoline in World Games tournament held in the Polish city of Wroclaw. At the World Cup in Minsk, the girls repeated this success, again winning silver medals.
The bronze award of the 28th European acrobatic gymnastics championship in the Polish city of Rzeszów was awarded to the Azerbaijani duo Agasif Ragimov and Nurjan Jabbarli. Also, our pair won the bronze medal in the all-round competitions. Abdulla al-Mashaikhi and Rukhidil Gurbanli, who participated in such a competition for the first, won the third bronze medal for the Azerbaijani team.
The Azerbaijan Federation of Gymnastics entered the rating of distinguished national federations awarded for the third time in a row by the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG). The high assessment given to the activities of the national federation is another confirmation of the sporting authority of Azerbaijan in the international arena.
In 2017, the national team of Azerbaijan in taekwondo won two medals at the World Championship held in the South Korean city of Muzhi. Magomed Mammadov was the first in the tournament to please his coaches. Ranked third in the category of 63 kg athletes, Magomed performed the minimum program. The best result was achieved by Milad Beigi Harchegani. The winner of the First European Games and the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games again said his weighty word in the 80 kg category and was ranked the best. Kharchegani became the third Azerbaijanian world champion in taekwondo. Niyameddin Pashaev and Radik Isayev achieved this title before him.
The World Judo Championship in Budapest also met the hopes of both coaches and fans. For the first time in its history, the national team of Azerbaijan won four medals. At the competitions with the participation of representatives of 127 countries, the Azerbaijani team was remembered by two silver and two bronze awards. Our main rivals were Japanese judokas. After a long break, Azerbaijani female judokas also won medals. Irina Kindzerskaya (78 kg), although lost in the semifinals to the Chinese Song Yu, received a bronze medal.
In total, Azerbaijan wrestlers won 94 gold, 69 silver, 131 bronze medals last year. Only at the World and European championships, as well as the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games, our national team won 99 medals in total: 33 gold, 29 silver and 37 bronze medals. Traditionally, the Azerbaijani national teams in the Greco-Roman and free-style wrestling have entered the top three at the World Cup.
The European Chess Championship held on the Greek island of Crete also ended with the historic victory of the Azerbaijani national team. Domestic grandmasters, already becoming champions of the continent in 2009 and 2013, four years later again won the title of the strongest in Europe. The winners of the European Champions Cup were the chess players of Odlar Yurdu Club. Women were awarded silver, and men bronze medals, respectively. Raising his rating to 2700 points, Rauf Mamedov stepped into the elite of world chess players. Shahriyar Mammadyarov is the first Azerbaijani chess player who has scored more than 2800 points. He became the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix, who has also secured his spot for the World Championship tournament.
The main test for Azerbaijani volleyball players, the winners of the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games was the qualifying stage of the 2018 World Cup. As the group tournament was supposed to be held in Baku, the hopes that the Azerbaijani team would win the ticket to the World Cup were great. But even the most optimistic fan could not expect that our team would achieve this without losing to any of the rivals in any set! Thus, the students of Faig Garayev were given an opportunity to participate in the finals of the World Cup for the fourth time. And our team took the fourth place at the European Championship held in Baku.
The past year was memorable for the bright results of Azerbaijani athletes and the country's high rating in the sports world. Among other things, Grand Prix of Azerbaijan was recognized as the best Formula-1 racing of 2017. The racing stage in Baku was named the most exciting and unpredictable race of the year.
The next year 2018 promises to be full of sportive events as well. According to Minister Azad Rahimov, this will include the European tennis tournament, gymnastics competition, Formula-1, BMX World Championship, World Judo Championship, etc.