Author: Sanan SHAFIZADEH
This summer this young athlete raised the flag of Azerbaijan at prestigious international competitions twice. Our guest today is the Azerbaijani athlete Nazim Babayev, the winner of the 30th Summer Universiade in Naples (Italy), the silver medallist of the European Championships in Athletics among juniors (U-23), held in Gavle (Sweden).
"Nazim, let us start with your first days in sports. Did you really want to become an athlete?"
"Like most boys of my age, I have dreamed of becoming a football player. In 2003, my mother and grandmother took me to the stadium, but we were recommended to do athletics first. They probably wanted me to be stronger physically. So I began with athletics. I soon achieved success in small competitions. My coaches no longer wanted me go. Frankly, I started to like this sport. That is why I chose to stay in athletics."
"What was the reaction of your family?"
"I had a lot of support from my grandfather. Surely he was always with me. He used to take me to training when I was younger. He has been waiting for me for hours. It is impossible to forget what he did for me. My family has always supported me in all my endeavours, and I am proud of it."
"They believed that you would become a successful athlete?"
"At first, not really. In early years, they said that I train for myself. It took 15 years until their faith in me became stronger and I met their expectations."
"Can you tell us about your first competition and achievement?"
"My first achievement was in 2012, when I became a bronze medallist of the Yilmaz Sazak Memorial. In 2013, I won a gold medal at the European Youth Festival in Utrecht (Netherlands). In 2014, I became a bronze medallist (15.96 m) at the Summer Olympic Games for juniors in the Chinese city of Nanjing. At the 2015 European Games in Baku, I won the competition in personal jumping. It was a team score, but still, I am proud of my achievement. That year, one of the most exciting moments of my sports career was the gold medal, which I won at the youth tournament in Sweden and, most importantly, got qualified to take part in the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics."
"In March 2019, you became a European champion among adults and have already managed to attract attention."
"In fact, I do not like attention, but I like to win. On March 1-3, in Glasgow (Scotland), I became the winner of the 35th European Indoor Triple Jumping Championships. For the first time I won the European Championship among adults, jumping 17 m 29 cm. This was my major historical achievement."
"What factor did play the main role in your becoming a European champion?"
"We observe a tough training regimen. After the summer season, we rested for 20 days. Then we started training again, which continues to this day. Training was very difficult. My success is the result of comprehensive support and focused work of my coach. We must be prepared for competitions both physically and psychologically. This medal is my first title among adult athletes. Before that, I had no result in these competitions. Yes, I became the European champion among juniors, but in the early years of the competition in the adult category, I experienced certain difficulties. I became a European champion when I turned 22. To succeed, one needs to exercise properly, work hard and be responsible."
"Over the past month you became a medallist of two different tournaments, the Universiade and then the European Championship..."
"I wanted to get a gold medal in both competitions. My objective was to become the champion of the continental championship among athletes under 23 years old. I won the Universiade because I tried my best. After that, I immediately went to another tournament. Unfortunately, I could not reach my goal in Naples. I just made mistakes. Otherwise, a gold medal would be mine."
"Will it be difficult to get qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games?"
"To get qualified, I must jump more than 16.95 m in the competitions in July. A license is issued a year before the actual Games. The winter season is more difficult for us than the summer, because there are fewer results in winter. The difference is 10, 20, or even as much as 30 cm. But anything is possible. This is sport! I hope that I can get a license."
"Looking back, do you regret that you did not become a football player?
"Of course not. I cannot imagine my life without athletics, because I love it. I am happy to do my favourite sport. I am also interested in football; I watch the matches of Garabagh."
"You can be called "the fastest guy in Azerbaijan".
"I do not want to evaluate myself. Media knows better. Recently journalists more often call me a "golden guy." I do not really pay attention to this. The main thing is to succeed in every competition."
"What is your main goal for the coming years?"
"World championship among adults will be in September. It is going to be a difficult competition. I want to return to Azerbaijan with a medal. Becoming one of the top three athletes of the world will be a huge success. And, of course, I really want to take part in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. One of my most cherished wishes is to get qualified for the Olympics and to raise the flag of Azerbaijan in Tokyo."