Mariana Vassileva: “Our gymnasts are ready for the World Championships in Stuttgart”

In a few days, one of the main sporting events of year starts in Stuttgart – the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships. The strongest athletes of the world come to the championships, as they confer the right to win licenses for the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil next year. Vestnik Kavkaza managed to watch the last training of one of favorites of the tournament – the Azerbaijan national team – before it flew to Stuttgart. The head coach of the team, Mariana Vassileva, speaks about the readiness of her athletes and the expectations for the upcoming championships.

-          A few days are left before the championships. What can you say about the level of readiness of your team?

-          The championships are very important, as they will confer licenses for the Olympic Games in Brazil. There are only two chances to get a license for the 2016 Olympics in rhythmic gymnasts: the World Championships in Stuttgart and the test tournament in Brazil in April. Of course it is difficult, as all countries have the same motivation; everybody is ready to win a license, but the main rivals are well-known. The Championships will be difficult; I hope will cope with it.

-          Has the final composition of the team been determined?

-          The composition is almost known. Our leader has been Marina Durunda for two years. Moreover, Ayshan Bayramova has become a discovery of this season suddenly. Her debut took place in Minsk at the European championships; it was her first official competition, where she managed to take 16thplace. I think it is a big achievement for her age. Ayshan took 15th place at the European Games. So she is our number two at the moment. And our number three is Gyulsyum Shafizade.

-          What about the level of the athletes who perform in the group exercises?

-          The group teams hadn’t much time between the European Games and the World Championships. I had to let them free for 10 days, as they had been working without days-off or vacations for 8-9 months. Everybody is rested and fit now. Yesterday we had a final training session, and they performed well; I hope they will manage to pull themselves together, overcome it mentally and perform great at the World Championships.

-          How will the process of issuing licenses take place this year at the WC?

-          A maximum of three licenses will be issued at this World Championships. One of them will be for groups. Only the top eight teams will get a license to the Olympics. Speaking about the personal all-round exercises, I should say that two gymnasts from each country can win licenses; and only the 15 strongest gymnasts of the world will go to the Brazil Olympics.

-          Why are some countries focused on groups, sending their best athletes, rather than on individual competitions?

-          In recent years Switzerland and Italy have focused on the groups. Their best gymnasts perform there. For example, Switzerland hasn’t been participating in individual competitions for 5 years. I think it depends on the goals which are set to federations. We are developing both directions. Our girls are good both in the group program and in individual exercises.

-          Can we expect a breakthrough from the leader of the team, Marina Durunda, at the Championships?

-          You always should expect something more. Marina hasn’t shown her limits yet. She demonstrates much better results in training than in big starts – technically and emotionally. I hope in Stuttgart Durunda will show her best; if she doesn't, she will do it at the Olympics.

-          What will be a good result for you personally?

-          For me, the best result is a good performance. If they make no mistakes, and they can do it, I will be glad, whatever the result. We know well that not everything depends on a perfect performance by athletes in sports.

-          What results do you expect in the group competitions?

-          There will be very hard competition – Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Israel, Bulgaria, Spain, Uzbekistan, Japan. All of these teams have at least two great athletes. However, we are not worse. We have always been in the top five in recent World Championships. Everything depends on mental strength and coping with set tasks.

-          We wish you good luck and the desired achievements!

-          Thank you! The main thing is that when we went outside the airport, happy children met us and asked our autographs. It means that they noted and remembered us; it remains in the athletes’ memory and encourages them. It is very important that not only judges, but that the spectators liked them too. 

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