Author: Sanan SHAFIZADEH
The 36th World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship ended in Sofia, Bulgaria. For three days, the fans of gymnastics were able to watch and support 350 gymnasts from 61 countries of the world competing at the Армеец sports arena.
Zohra Aghamirova and the first-timers of the championship, Veronika Gudis and Daria Sorokina, from Azerbaijan demonstrated a commendable performance and took the ninth place among 38 countries in the team event.
In the all-around competition, Zohra became one of the 24 best gymnasts in the world, while Veronica was only a step behind the final competition and took the 25th place. Daria was the 48th best among 148 gymnasts showing her best result in the exercise with a ball.
Azerbaijani athletes also performed for the team competitions among 36 teams. Competing with the strongest athletes of the world, Siyana Vasileva, Aliya Pashayeva, Diana Doman, Aishan Bayramova, and Zeynab Hummatova received 20.100 points in hoop routines finishing the 5th. Another performance of our gymnasts at the final stage of the championship with three balls and two jump ropes brought them the 7th place. The Azerbaijani team stopped at the 7th position and in the all-around.
Head coach of the Azerbaijani national team Mariana Vasileva called the performance of Azerbaijani athletes successful. According to her, every year the results of national athletes are improving. “At the last championship, we could not reach the final stage in the individual program because Zohra Aghamirova did not have enough experience. But in the same year, she reached the final stage and was chosen one of the 24 best gymnasts among 1,690 athletes. This is a very good result, given that she is only 16 years old. This year, Daria Sorokina and Veronika Gudis also joined the world championship. Thanks to their performances, Azerbaijani took the 9th place among 36 countries. I think this is a good result too. Most importantly, our athletes have a promising future. Our team is young; it is one of the youngest at the World Championships", Mariana Vasileva said.
She thinks the best was demonstrated in team exercises, where the Azerbaijani team is one of the leaders. "Of course, it was a little difficult to perform after the European Championships, where we won the bronze medal in the exercises with balls and skipping ropes, as everyone expected better results from us. But everything turned out well, and we were able to get into both finals. In addition, we are qualified for the licensing tournament before the Tokyo Olympic Games and the next World Championship, which will be held in Baku," Vasileva said.
Vasileva noted that the First Vice-president of Azerbaijan, President of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation, Mehriban Aliyeva, has contributed a lot to the achievements of our athletes. “Nobody works like Mehriban Aliyeva. This is an objective reality, and we all know about it. The current situation is completely different from what it was 5-10 years ago. The most important thing for us is her moral support. After all, it is not always possible to return from competitions with medals, there are also failures. But we always feel the support of Mehriban Aliyeva, she is always there. I also want to thank the Vice-president of our federation Altay Hasanov. During these years, he did everything for the development of our team," M. Vasileva noted.
She underlined that thanks to the conditions created in Azerbaijan, rhythmic gymnastics is developing not only in Baku. “Today we can see the development of rhythmic gymnastics in 15 regions of Azerbaijan. Regional tournaments have been held ver the last three years. As of the end of 2017, 1,258 athletes were doing rhythmic gymnastics in the regions of Azerbaijan. And this number is growing every day. Three more gymnastics clubs will be opened in the regions by the end of this year. I think by the end of 2018, the number of gymnasts in the country will reach 2500 people. As for Baku, of course, it is the center of rhythmic gymnastics. There are several clubs here and we work with each of them,” the head coach of the Azerbaijani national rhythmic gymnastics team said.
According to Vasileva, 2018 was truly a starting year for continuous success of Azerbaijani gymnasts. “In general, this year we have achieved good results. Arzu Jalilova pleased us with a bronze medal of the European Championship, while our team took the 3rd place in the continental championship in team competitions with three balls and two jump ropes, the 5th place in the world championship in hoop routines and the 7th place in all-round competitions. Moreover, we won the Challenge Cup tournament, which is considered quite prestigious. This year, we also qualified for the Youth Olympic Games, and in two weeks Elizaveta Luzan will represent Azerbaijan in Buenos Aires,” the head coach said.
But it's not just the results. Mariana Vasileva says that today the national team of Azerbaijan in rhythmic gymnastics is going through an important stage of development. “It is important that we already have a lot of promising gymnasts. Today we have 63 athletes, and we are developing in various directions. This is important to me,” she said.
Vasileva believes that quantitative development should contribute to quality. "For example, today there are 23 gymnasts in our junior team. For comparison, in 2014, when the European Championship was held in Baku, we had only two gymnasts. In addition, we have formed the second team for the group exercises, which is going to start in February next year. This is the first time in our history. There is a strong competition, which contributes to development," M. Vasileva said.
At the closing of the championship, the flag of the International Gymnastics Federation (IGF) was passed to Azerbaijan, the host of the next world championship. The flag was handed over by the IGF President Morinari Watanabe to the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Bulgaria Nargiz Gurbanova.