Azerbaijan - world destination for gymnasts or Baku, gateway to Tokyo

Azerbaijan - world destination for gymnasts or Baku, gateway to Tokyo
# 13 September 2019 11:53 (UTC +04:00)

Baku hosts Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championship after 14 years, APA reports.

The world championship which will take place on September 16-22 at the National Gymnastics Arena will bear qualification character for Tokyo Olympics.

Five interesting aspects unveiled before the world championship. International Gymnastics Federation specially focused on specifications of the tournament.

A historic opportunity for Dina Averina

To date, only four women have won three consecutive world All-around titles: Bulgaria’s Mariya Gigova (1969-73) and Maria Petrova (1993-95), then Russia’s Evgeniya Kanaeva (2009-2011) and most recently, Yana Kudryavtseva (2013-15). Russia’s Dina Averina, whose massive difficulty scores and on-point consistency give her a big advantage over the rest of the competition, has a chance to join them. The younger Averina twin’s biggest rival may be her own sister, Arina, or Israel’s Linoy Ashram, both of whom have proven capable of challenging her for gold.

Israel (and others) on the rise

Gymnasts from seven different nations landed on the podiums at last weekend’s World Challenge Cup in Portimao, Portugal, underlining the increasing globality of the sport. The list of potential challengers to Russia’s supremacy is extensive: names to watch include 2016 Olympians Katsiaryna Halkina (BLR), Linoy Ashram (ISR), Kaho Minagawa (JPN), and Laura Zeng (USA) as well as up-and-comers Anastasia Salos (BLR), Katrin Taseva (BUL), Alexandra Agiurgiuculese (ITA), Milena Baldassarri (ITA), and Vlada Nikolchenko (UKR).

All are already quite accomplished: Halkina, Agiurgiuculese, Baldassarri, Ashram and Minagawa have all pocketed individual World medals; Kaleyn and Taseva are the reigning world team silver medallists, and Zeng contributed to the USA’s best-ever world team finish last year. Nikolchenko, for her part, finished just off the All-around podium in fourth.

Golden tidings for Groups

If recent history in the individual competition shows a string of Russian victories, victories in Group competition have been more spread among different nations. Already this year, Bulgaria, Israel, Italy, Japan and Russia have all climbed atop the podiums at World Cups or World Challenge Cups, while Azerbaijan, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Ukraine cracked the top three at least once. Mighty Russia can never be counted out, especially with a squad that includes 2016 Olympic gold medallists Anastasia Maksimova and Maria Tolkacheva. What it all adds up to is a competition that promises the thrill of suspense.

Baku, gateway to Tokyo

Much more than world glory is in play in the Azerbaijan capital. The top 16 gymnasts in the All-around final will qualify their countries to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, while the top five eligible groups in the All-around competition (barring the already qualified Russia, Italy and Bulgaria) will earn Olympic berths for their nations, adding an extra layer of intrigue to what already promises to be an incredibly exciting competition.

Azerbaijan, a world destination for gymnasts

The competition will be held in the state-of-the-art National Gymnastics Arena, a 5,000-seat edifice that is one of the world’s only venues constructed specifically with Gymnastics in mind. The airy, palatial space was built to house the Gymnastics competitions at the 1st European Games in 2015. It has hosted a number of World Cup events and May’s Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships since, but this is the first time it will host a World Championships. Baku’s Heydar Aliyev Arena across town hosted the first Rhythmic Worlds held in the country in 2005.