National gymnasts shine on world stage in 2014

By: Amina Nazarli

The outgoing year was a successful one for Azerbaijan’s Gymnastics Federation.

One of the outstanding events of 2014 was inauguration of iconic 9,000-seat National Gymnastics Arena in Baku. President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, who is head of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation, attended the opening ceremony.

The arena is one of the most amazing gymnastics venues in the world and is designed to host all gymnastics disciplines as well as having the flexibility to host other sports and events – such as through retractable and movable seating tiers to vary capacity.

The National Gymnastics Arena will be a centre piece venue for the inaugural European Games in 2015 and World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in 2019.

A grandiose event, the 30th European Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships was held in the arena on June 13-15. The event received the highest score from experts and managers of the European Gymnastics Union.

This year, the federation also organized judging courses on gymnastics disciplines – trampoline and women’s artistic gymnastics. The federation now has several judges on these disciplines.

Later, the national representatives successfully passed exams on aerobics, a new discipline for the Federation as well, organized in Austria. Then, the Academy of International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) for Coaches in Rhythmic Gymnastics was established in Baku.

This year, the gymnasts continued to delight fans with their medals. In 2014, they won medals in those disciplines and programs, in which they were not able to gain great successes earlier. Thus, in rhythmic gymnastics, the national juniors’ team took the first medal, bronze, in the team competition at the European Championships.

The senior gymnasts also shined bright this year. The team in the group exercises joined the European Championships for the first time, winning a silver medal in the exercise with 3 balls and 2 ribbons.

Anna Pavlova who ranked the second at the European Championships brought the very first Azerbaijani medal in the women’s artistic gymnastics. She also won the first medal at the World Cup. She won an exercise on uneven bars at the competition held in the capital of Slovenia.

At the World Cup, Oleg Stepko brought the first medal in men’s artistic gymnastics. He ranked third in the exercise on the parallel bars in the competitions held in the Croatian Osijek.

The aerobics team, in turn, attended for the first time the World Cup held in the Bulgarian city of Borovets and won the bronze.

Oleg Piunov and Ilya Grishunin ranked third in Portugal, winning the first medals at the World Cup on Trampoline.

Marina Durunda, who brought a clutch of medals from the international competitions this year, was chosen a sport ambassador of the Baku 2015 European Games.

Overall, the gymnasts won 114 medals, including 42 gold, 30 silver and 42 bronze, in 2014. Most of them (68) fall on rhythmic gymnastics.

In the ranking of Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation, the first place was taken by the senior group team, which also finished 2014 at the third place in the ranking of group teams by the International Gymnastics Federation (all around).