Perhaps there is already no sphere of our life, which remains untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus had a significant impact on the world sports calendar of 2020. So, in April, almost all the world professional sports competitions scheduled for the spring-summer season were postponed or ceased. Even the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, scheduled for July-August, have been rescheduled for next year. Therefore, experts say that in terms of its impact on sports, coronavirus has become the most disastrous event since the World War II.
Gymnastics was no exception. In Azerbaijan, as well as in Europe in general, some gymnastics competitions were cancelled, others were postponed. We asked Farid GAYIBOV, President of the European Gymnastics, about the impact of the pandemic on gymnastics and the future plans.
“How did quarantine affect European gymnastics?”
“Eight European championships in various types of gymnastics and a number of festivals were scheduled for this year. But we had to either postpone the events for the next year, or reschedule them for 2020. We have not yet decided on three European championships in the types related to the Olympic program (It's been decided to hold the European Championship in December 2020 - R+). The competition should take place at the end of the year, since the next European Championship is scheduled for 2021, which makes it impossible to postpone the competition to next year. I mean the European championship in gymnastics for men and women athletes, as well as the continental championship in rhythmic gymnastics.
“The European Championships in trampoline gymnastics, which was supposed to be held inSweden, was cancelled unfortunately. After discussions with the Russian Federation of Trampoline Gymnastics, we decided to hold the event in Sochi in 2021. We also planned to hold a competition called Gymnastics for All. It was scheduled to be held in Reykjavik, but later postponed to the next year. The Golden Age Tournament for 50+ year-old participants will be held on the island of Crete next year too.”
“What issues did you discuss during the online communication with the European Gymnastics and International gymnastics federation?”
“Communication with the Presidential Commission and the Executive Committee of European Gymnastics, as well as the Executive Committee of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) have been held online for the last two months. The main topic of discussions is the postponement or cancellation of competitions. The FIG World Cups, as well as the Continental Championships qualifying for the Olympic Games, were postponed for 2021. Since 2021 is an Olympic year, FIG is organizing non-Olympic World Championships. The competitions for acrobatic gymnastics were also postponed for the next year. Negotiations are underway regarding the aerobics Championships. Most likely, it will also take place in 2021.
“Since 2020 was an Olympic year, this season was supposed to end at the end of this year. And since the Tokyo Olympic Games was postponed to 2021, the new rules on gymnastics will become effective not in 2021, but on January 2022.”
“What about the competitions planned to be held in Baku?”
“The World Championships in trampoline gymnastics and tumbling was successfully held in February. Although the competitions in Artistic Gymnastics World Cup started in March, they could not be completed due to the termination of air communication. According to the decision of the FIG Executive Committee, the results of the qualification stage were counted as final. And the athletes qualified for the Olympic Games according to these results.
“The World Cup in Rhythmic Gymnastics to be held in Baku was postponed to next year. Negotiations on holding European Championships in gymnastics are ongoing. The European Gymnastics and Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation (AFG) continue discussions on this competition. As I have already noted, the Championship will either be held at the end of 2020, or will be cancelled. FIG and AFG also continue discussions over the World Aerobic Gymnastics Championships. This competition is scheduled for 2021.”
“Do you think that the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics affects the plans of the famous gymnasts? Are there any athletes who have completed their careers without waiting for the Summer Olympic Games in 2021?”
“I have no information about the completion of careers by athletes. Their main goal was and is to participate in the Olympic Games. I think the athletes qualified for the Tokyo Olympics will end their career after participating in this largest global competition. Anyway, the Olympics is a very important competition. Of course, the current situation affects everyone, including athletes. I wish them more patience. In some countries of Europe, they have already been allowed to train. I believe the situation recovers soon. All athletes will again start training and will be able to test their strength in competitions.”
“How do you assess the progress of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation from Europe? Gymnastics in Azerbaijan is one of the sports with the largest number of Olympic Qualification...”
“Since I am an Azerbaijani myself and was formed professionally thanks to the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation, my opinion can be perceived differently. It is difficult to talk about this being the president of the European Gymnastics. Professionally, AGF has contributed and continues to contribute to the development of gymnastics in Azerbaijan. For example, International Gymnastics Federation, which unites more than 130 countries, has recognised AGF as a leader in its ranking of the best 10 Federations for the third consecutive year. FIG has always praised the work of AGF at the official level.
“As for the Qualification for the Olympic Games, I can only congratulate the national team in group exercises. As you know, the team did not participate in two Olympic Games. This time, however, Azerbaijani athletes qualified in a tense contest. One of such athletes is Zohra Aghamirova. Azerbaijan qualified for the Games in both Men's and Women's Artistic Gymnastics. But it was the first qualification for the Olympic Games in Women's Artistic Gymnastics.”
“Your wishes to fans of gymnastics...”
“I wish all athletes to be patient. The difficulties are temporary, although they lasted longer than we were expected. Quarantine will end soon. I believe that we will cope with these difficulties, as we always did before.”
“Thank you for the interview.”