Gymnasts praise World Challenge Cup in Artistic Gymnastics in Baku

By Amina Nazarli

The entire gymnastics community’s eyes focused on Azerbaijan’s capital Baku last week, since the city welcomed major FIG event -- World Challenge Cup in Artistic Gymnastics, bringing together 146 elite gymnasts from 19 countries.

The gymnasts did their best to get the title of best in Baku, performing difficult, but at the same time very breathtaking exercises during the three-day event.

The national team consisted of six strong gymnasts could earn four medals at this biggest ever gymnastics event in Baku, thus sounding the national sonorous anthem at the National Gymnastics Arena.

Both athletes and the Organizing Committee worked hard and tirelessly to make these days unforgettable for the country’s guests and fans, as the country hosted such kind of tournament for the first time in the history of the national gymnastics.

It is our first practice in the artistic gymnastics, which was successful, said Vice-President of Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation (AGF) Altay Hasanov.

“Given the feedback from the officials of the International Federation of Gymnastics, Technical Committee, I can say that they are satisfied,” the AGF vice-president emphasized. “Member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Gymnastics Morinari Watanabe praised the organizational level of the World Challenge Cup.”

He said the Federation expected good results from Oleg Stepko.

“Performing at home is easy, but requires high responsibility. Therefore, Stepko wasn’t doing very well on the first day. However, then he braced himself up, performed well and even won three medals.”

The national proud Oleg Stepko was also pleased with his results, winning gold in uneven bars event, silver in vault and bronze in rings exercise.

“I am pleased with my result at the moment, and at the same time I know what mistakes should be corrected. I think I was 70 percent ready for the tournament, I missed the apparatuses I was preparing for in the first place,” the gymnast said.

National female gymnast Nekrasova who won a bronze medal in floor exercise also could not hide her happiness, noting that this victory is a great achievement for the women's artistic gymnastics of Azerbaijan.

The foreign athletes appraised the organization level and atmosphere of the event.

A gold winner in rings event, Turkish athlete Ibrahim Colak, who performed on the arena for the second time after the inaugural European Games said the atmosphere at the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku is simply unique.

Iranian gymnast Saeed Reza Keikha noted he is very happy he could win a bronze medal for which he did a lot of efforts.

“There are very good training and competition halls here,” said the gymnast. “The event has been organized at a high level, fans support all the gymnasts very actively, it is a pleasure to perform here.”

Japanese gymnast Kenzo Shirai said the level of organization of the World Challenge Cup in Baku was indeed beyond his expectations.

Having won gold in the floor exercise, Shirai admitted that the finals’ result turned out to be just the way he planned.

“In the qualifications, my result was lower than now, since then I showed a new element, which was rather complicated, and I was nervous,” he said. “I decided not to perform this element in the finals, and that’s why I was calmer and got such a high result.”

Shirai also added: “It’s my first time in Azerbaijan,” Shirai said. “There are very good people here, everything has been organized at a high level.”

Slovenian gymnast Rok Klavora was happy to win the silver medal at the World Cup in Baku, where he came for the first time.

“Organization of the tournament is at a very high level. It’s good that all the exercises are held on the platform. The hall is very nice and the audience is very friendly,” he admitted.

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Amina Nazarli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @amina_nazarli

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