Author: Sanan NADIROGHLU
Indeed, it was the first international competition in the capital of Azerbaijan after a 14-month break. All tournaments at the National Gymnastics Arena were cancelled during the strict lockdown introduced in 2020. In May 2021, the silence was broken by the gymnasts, who gathered for the much anticipated Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku. Thanks to permission of the Azerbaijani government, more than 150 athletes from 35 countries competed at the licensing competition in Baku to get qualified for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Zohra Aghamirova and Arzu Jalilova represented Azerbaijan in the individual program. Group exercises included Zeynab Hummatova, Maryam Safarova, Daria Sorokina, Laman Alimuradova and Yelizaveta Luzan.
In a tense competition with the strongest national teams of the world, our team succeeded in group exercises. The Azerbaijani national team, which made it to the finals in both types of the program, hit the third step of the podium for the final performance with 5 balls. In the all-around, our representatives missed only 0.05 points to win bronze medals. In exercises with two pairs of clubs and three hoops, the Azerbaijani team took became the 5th strongest.
Group team coach, multiple winner of European Championships, World Cup and other international competitions Siyana Vasileva is extremely pleased with the bronze medal: “I am very glad to join the competition. We performed well and I hope pleased the audience with a good result. Thank you all for this chance. As an athlete myself, I know how difficult it is to perform at home. The girls were very worried. They also wanted to perform well at home, to please everyone. I am proud that we did it.”
Performing for the first time this year at home, Zohra Aghamirova made her way up to the final stage of the competition in ribbon exercises. She was behind the medallists with a minimal margin, while in the all-around she was among the 10 strongest. Arzu Jalilova with her first-time international performance among adult athletes, took the 15th place in exercises with a ball.
To comply with the lockdown regime and to minimise human contacts, as well as to follow the rules and recommendations of the International Gymnastics Federation, the organizing committee has taken a number of steps. One of the attractive innovations of the championship was the awards ceremony performed with drones.
Another innovation concerned the media coverage of the event. MixedZone, i.e. the area for post-performance interviews with gymnasts has been replaced with online interviews. Journalists were able to interview any athlete without even visiting the arena building.
Success in Sochi
Along with the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijani gymnasts were also remembered for the medals won at the European Championship in Trampoline Gymnastics, Double Mini-Trampoline and Tumbling held in Sochi, where the respective national teams won one silver and two bronze medals.
The first medal came from junior tumbling players pushing the team of Huseyn Asadullayev, Tofig Aliyev, Adil Hajizade and Bilal Gurbanov to the third step of the podium.
Another medal was taken by the silver medallists of the World Age Group Competitions in synchronized jumping Huseyn Abbasov and Magsud Magsudov, who repeated this result at the continental championship.
Note that 13-year-old Huseyn and Magsud made their way to the podium competing against older and more experienced gymnasts.
The last medal in our team was won by an experienced tumbling player Mikhail Malkin. The European champion, who has not played at international competitions for a long time due to an injury, got his medal this time. With a few small mistakes, Malkin received a bronze medal of the championship.
Our only woman athlete in the trampoline competition, Seljan Magsudova, also could make her way to the final stage of the competition. At her first-ever performance at a continental championship, Seljan took the sixth place. Also, it was the first time she competed with the eight strongest adult athletes of the championship.
The Sochi championship will go down in the history of Azerbaijani gymnastics with a number of ‘for the first time’ phrases. Thus, both the bronze medal of the tumbling team and the silver medal in synchronized jumping are the first medals won by our junior athletes at the European Championship. Also it was the first time our woman athlete S. Magsudova made her way to the final stage of the continental championship.
The largest competition to be organised by the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation in 2021 will be the World Aerobics Championship slated for May 27-29 in Baku. Azerbaijan also hosted the European Aerobics Championship back in 2019. This time the National Gymnastics Arena is preparing to open its doors to the representatives of the most dynamic type of gymnastics.