Sport begins with gymnastics
The Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation (AGF) is preparing for one of the largest sports competitions of the year - 2019 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships that will be held at the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku on September 16-22. At the opening ceremony, the Oriental Tale show will be shown, honored artist Tunzal Agayev will perform the a capella anthem of Azerbaijan, and world championship celebrity ambassador, honored artist Miri Yusif will perform a song that was written exclusively for these competitions. People’s artist of Azerbaijan Emin Agalarov will please the audience with his songs.
Ambassador of the World Cup, multiple world champion, Olympic medalist Yana Batyrshina together with the audience will watch the competition. Alexander Soldatov and the Averina sisters will represent Russia in individual competitions. Vera Biryukova, Anastasia Maksimova, Anastasia Shishmakova, Angelika Strubailo and Maria Tolkacheva will perform in the group competitions.
What to expect from the championship
The competitions will be marked not only by the fight for the championship of rhythmic gymnasts from around the world but also by the qualifications for the 32nd Olympic Games 2020 in Tokyo. Gymnasts from 62 countries, both in the individual program and in the group competitions, will compete in the all-around and in the individual competitions finals, and the representatives of the individual program will also participate in the team event.
At this championship, the official mascot of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation is Gur-Gur, who has just returned from a trip around the world.
For 300 gymnasts, the Baku championship will be a stepping stone to the Olympics: the first 16 athletes (maximum two gymnasts from the country) in the individual all-around program will receive licenses. As for teams in group exercises, following the results of last year's World Cup, Bulgaria, Russia and Italy have already secured a license. At this year’s championship, the top five teams in the group all-around exercises will get a chance to perform in Tokyo.
How Azerbaijan earned the right to host a championship
The most popular sport in Azerbaijan among girls is rhythmic gymnastics. It is considered as basic for all sports. However, the country had to go long and difficult way to become a "gymnastic power." In 2002, after the election of the first lady of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva, as the president of AGF, the federation combined rhythmic gymnastics, men's artistic gymnastics, tumbling and acrobatic gymnastics. By 2015, at the First European Games, other disciplines were represented - women's gymnastics, trampoline, sports aerobics. In the last 3-4 years, AGF began to develop a non-competitive look - "gymnastics for all", two years ago, the development of team gym started in Azerbaijan, and last year, athletes in this discipline participated in the European Championship. Parkour is being developed as well.
Starting from four types, the federation has now grown to nine: rhythmic gymnastics, men's gymnastics, women's gymnastics, trampolining and tumbling, acrobatic gymnastics, aerobic gymnastics, team gymnastics and gymnastics for all. Of the 148 federations that are members of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), such a number of species is developed only in large countries. Even in Russia, for example, there is no team gym. It was not easy to develop these sports, as there were no established traditions in the country, however, in 1994, the AGF became a part of the International Gymnastics Federation. Over a quarter of a century, specialists have appeared in the country, whose services are in demand in many countries: athletes come to training camps in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani specialists are summoned to other countries to conduct master classes, coaching and referee courses.
At the time the AGF was created, the emphasis was on rhythmic gymnastics, but its development and the development of other gymnastic types took a lot of time and resources. At first, there was no appropriate sports equipment - neither for training nor for performance; there were no halls, they were rented. In April 2014, President Ilham Aliyev personally opened the National Gymnastics Arena, where training, national and international competitions are held today. The European Games, Islamic Games, Youth Festival, European Championship were held at the Arena, and there, the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship will be held in a few days.
For two consecutive years, AGF has been the first in the list of top Gymnastics Federations, out of the 148 in the FIG. Now there is licensed sports equipment, training rooms. Rhythmic gymnastics is developing in 16 regions of Azerbaijan, and gymnastics, acrobatics, and trampoline are still developing in several regions.
Today Azerbaijan has its own winners of world championships, European champions. Azerbaijani athletes participated in the Olympic Games in two disciplines - rhythmic and artistic gymnastics, won medals at the European Games and Universiades, twice participated in the World Gymnastrad, held several world cups, European championships in rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, and aerobics.
The style of the Azerbaijani rhythmic gymnastics team has been formed by the trainer Mariana Vasileva for 10 years. Under her guidance, gymnasts, having won medals in many major international competitions, adequately represent the country on the world stage. This summer, at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the International Gymnastics Federation in Managua, Vasileva was awarded the diploma of the Honored Coach of the International Federation.
At the same meeting, the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation was introduced as a host of the AGF World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships. AGF, which in recent years has organized many large-scale gymnastic competitions, has many important championships ahead. After the 2019 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, the 2020 Aerobic Gymnastics World Championships and the 2021 Trampoline World Championships, in 2022, the Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships will be held in Baku for the first time.