Natalia Smolova: "Baku has perfect conditions for Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup"

FIG World Cup in Rhythmic Gymnastics kicks off in Baku on Friday. Coach of Israeli national team, Natalia Smolova, discussed this tournament and the development of Israeli rhythmic gymnastics in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.

- What are your team's expectations for the upcoming World Cup in Baku?

- We're Israel's team. Israel is a country that has already proved that it deserves a place on the geographical map of rhythmic gymnastics, so, naturally, we always want to show the best result. We want to get into the finals, to be in the top six during the qualifiers and to get medals in the finals. As I said, we always want to show the best result, especially at those cups that we love very much. Baku has perfect conditions, very close to the European and world championships. I would like to stress that such competitions help understand the level of our gymnasts, both professionally and organizationally. 

- Who will represent the Israeli team?

- The Israeli national team is represented by Israeli champion Victoria Filanovsky, her best result - sixth place at the last European Championship, as well as young gymnast Nicole Zelikman, who won junior medal at the European Championship. Taking into account their previous achievements, we have very high expectations for the World Cup in Baku. As for the team led by Ira Vigdorchik, she just started to work on the group stage.

- What can you say about the development of gymnastics in Azerbaijan?

- All conditions created by the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation for its national team are almost ideal and help to achieve high results. I follow the progress of the Azerbaijani team for a long time and I can say that it has a very optimistic future. I see that the AGF is working for the future, focusing on young gymnasts and children, as well as the teaching their own coaches. This work will bring great results.

- Who will be the main rival of your team?

- Of course, the Azerbaijani team. As well as teams from Belarus, Bulgaria and Georgia. Considering the fact that we're performing under new rules, I think all gymnasts coming here are our rivals, so it's impossible to predict the final result. Except for Russian gymnasts, who usually take the first or second places. Everyone else - Azerbaijan, Israel, Belarus, Georgia, Bulgaria, Italy - will compete on equal terms.

- How Israel's mandatory military service requirement for women affects the development of rhythmic gymnastics in the country?

- Athletes from Olympic teams with results at European championships can combine military service and training. You can't avoid serving in the army, but the state sets perfect conditions for talented athletes to train and stay in shape. Naturally, not everything is so simple, some small issues may arise. Fortunately, our entire team, which performed at the Olympics in Rio, got a respite from the army, so we were able to compete there. Right now some of the girls are already in the army. All federations understand that it makes things a little bit more complicated, but on the other hand, it's still possible to train.

- Today it was clear that you have good relationship with head coach of the Azerbaijani national team in rhythmic gymnastics Mariana Vasileva. Are you constantly in contact?

- I believe that if we reach mutual understanding and can help each other, everyone benefit from this. I follow Mariana's career, her creative career - I'm saying that because unlike many trainers, she is a very creative person, she also creates the national team's program. I admire that. I follow the developments in the Azerbaijani gymnastics. Its leader, Marina Durunda, impresses everyone with interesting compositions, while group performances always contribute to the understanding of gymnastics. Mariana's creative mindset is very interesting, and if she tell me her opinion and help me with something, I'll be happy with it.

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