Author: Sanan SHAFIZADE
It is no secret that 20-30 years ago gymnastics was not considered a traditional sport in Azerbaijan. But in recent years the attitude to gymnastics both in the country and among the population has changed. The successful development plan of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation (AGF) has considerably increased the number of fans.
The foundation of this success was laid on October 7, 2002, when the incumbent First Vice-President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva was elected the head of the federation. Thanks to purposeful and effective activities in this area gymnastics in Azerbaijan has made a tangible progress along with establishing strong relations at international level. In fact, AGF has become one of the most active institutions in the world of gymnastics. Since the beginning of this century AGF has been successfully supervising nine types of gymnastics in Azerbaijan.
As a national sport
Thanks to the effective development tactics of AGF Azerbaijani gymnasts took part in the Olympic Games, won medals in world and European championships, Azerbaijan hosted a number of prestigious competitions of continental and world level. Gymnastics has been promoted not only in Baku but also in the regions of Azerbaijan, including in 26 districts and cities.
AGF has been ranked among the 10 national federations awarded by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) for six consecutive years, topping the list in recent years.
There are nine types of gymnastics currently being developed in Azerbaijan. Four of them are included in the program of Olympic Games (rhythmic gymnastics, artistic gymnastics among men and women, trampoline). The other four are acrobatic gymnastics, aerobic gymnastics, parkour, TeamGym and one is non-competitive—Gymnastics for All. Eight of the disciplines are curated by FIG, while TeamGym is popular in Europe.
One of the main objectives of AGF was to establish the gymnastics traditions in the country, to raise interest in gymnastics among the population. The international recognition of Azerbaijani athletes played an instrumental role in the popularisation of gymnastics as well. Azerbaijani women gymnasts have joined the national rhythmic gymnastics team since 2004 (the 2004 Athens Olympic Games). Men athletes joined them in 2012 (London Olympic Games). For the first time in history Azerbaijan was represented in women gymnastics at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Azerbaijani athletes are medal winners in Olympic and non-Olympic gymnastics. They have won medals and awards at world and European championships, world and European competitions among different age groups, European Games, Summer Universiades, World Cups and other international competitions.
Major international competitions held in Azerbaijan have also contributed to the growing interest in gymnastics. While only rhythmic gymnastics competitions were held in Azerbaijan in 2002-2016, Azerbaijan has hosted the World Cup events in four Olympic disciplines every season since 2016. In addition to rhythmic gymnastics, Azerbaijan also organised European and world championships, as well as international tournaments among different age groups in trampoline, acrobatics and aerobic gymnastics.
Gymnastics is the only discipline in the history of independent Azerbaijan to be represented at the Olympic Games in team events. Our team has already competed in group exercises at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In 2022, the national team won gold at the World Cup in Baku, then three bronzes at the European Championships in Israel, two gold and one silver medal at the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games held in Turkey. The biggest success was achieved at the world championship in Sofia in September 2022. The bronze medal, which the Azerbaijani national team got at this competition, was the first in the history of national gymnastics awarded at the world championship in group exercises.
Along with gymnasts, the AGF officials also enjoy great recognition in international sports organisations. For example, Azerbaijani Minister of Youth and Sports, Farid Gayibov, has been the president of European Gymnastics (EG) since 2017. In early December, Gayibov was re-elected president of EG. The election took place in Albufeira, Portugal as part of the 29th European Gymnastics Congress. Gayibov was the only candidate in the current election and won all the votes (44).
Also, Natalia Bulanova from Azerbaijan is a member of the Technical Committee for Rhythmic Gymnastics in FIG.
One of the prominent achievements of the federation is the creation of proper infrastructure and favourable conditions for training. The construction of the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku, which can accommodate 9000 fans, meets all the necessary requirements and contributes to the development of the sport in Azerbaijan. The facility has all the conditions for effective training, education and accommodation of members of the national team.
AGF will continue developing sustainability in the coming years as well.
As part of celebrations dedicated to the 20th anniversary of AGF’s restructuring, a joint competition covering six disciplines was held at the Sheki Olympic Sports Complex on December 8-11, 2022. Competitions included the 27th Azerbaijan Championship in men's artistic and acrobatic gymnastics, the 6th championship in women's artistic and aerobic gymnastics and trampoline, the 18th championship in tumbling and the 27th Azerbaijan Championship in rhythmic gymnastics.
Unlike previous years, it was the first time the joint competition was held not in Baku. The opening ceremony included a gala show attended by the world-renowned gymnastics stars, such as Jessica Gadirova, double European champion, gold and double bronze medalist of world championships, bronze medalist of the Tokyo Olympic Games in team competition, and her sister Jennifer Gadirova, bronze medalist of the Tokyo Olympic Games in team competition and European Championship in team competition, both representing the national team of Great Britain, Ferhad Arican (Turkey), the bronze medallist of the Tokyo Olympic Games, two-time European champion in artistic gymnastics, Milena Baldasari (Italy), as well as acrobats of the Israeli national team.