Rhythmic gymnastics, which did not have rich traditions in Azerbaijan, has become one of dynamically developing types of sports in Azerbaijan over the past few years thanks to systematic activities of the Azerbaijani Gymnastics Federation led by First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva. The country hosted world and European championships, our sportsmen successfully performed in the Olympic Games and different international tournaments. The network of gymnastic sections and schools are being expanded in regions. Construction of Gymnastic Complex in Baku, the stone-laying of which was honored by Azerbaijani President and Head of the National Olympic Committee Ilham Aliyev and Azerbaijani Gymnastics Federation President Mehriban Aliyeva, also testifies for prospects of national gymnastics. Azerbaijani Gymnastics Federation Vice President Altay Hasanov spoke in an interview with AzerTaj correspondent about organization's activities in 2009 and future plans.
Altay Hasanov: I regard the 2009 results in gymnastics as successful. You know very well the pace of development of gymnastics in Azerbaijan over the past few years. Constant support and attention both by the Head of State and naturally, Gymnastics Federation President Mehriban Aliyeva commit us to work up to the mark and demonstrate high results. I think our sportsmen and trainers gradually attain the level when one can say that gymnastics in Azerbaijan is on the rise.
Baku for the second time in Azerbaijan's contemporary history hosted the European Championship in May. It had impressive results. Our sportsmen won two silver medals. We have never succeeded before to gain such a height in the team tournament and junior group tournaments. This bright success was acknowledged by the international sport community, too.
I should note that
Aliya Garayeva and Anna Gurbanova have now reached the level when only Russian sportsmen stand above. For the time being it is difficult to rival with gymnasts from Russia - a traditional arbiter in this type of sports. Silver medal that out gymnasts won and their ability to compete with Russians indicate for high development of gymnastics.
I would call the success of junior groups as revolutionary, because it was created almost recently and juniors for the first year performed together. The success they gained is the tremendous achievement for our country and local sports.
I want to remark Anna Gurbanova's bronze medal in exercises with ball. She gained the medal in a very severe rivalry. The point is that Anna is a stable team player and has never won higher places. Her third place in a serious rivalry with renowned gymnasts from Russia and Ukraine demonstrates her professional growth.
After the European championship Mehriban khanum Aliyeva received our sportsmen and noted the high level of gymnastics in Azerbaijan.
Bright achievements were also gained during the last World Championship in Japan. Aliya Garayeva became the vice world champion in exercises with boll. In a team score our gymnasts were the third - as it was two years ago in Greece. Stability in the demonstrated results indicates professionalism of the team. It directly indicates to unity of our team and the support the team members render each other. Our ability to repeat the Patras success in Japan says itself about stability and increasing development dynamic of local gymnastics. Although Garayeva, Gurbanova and Zeynab Javadli were two-fold bronze winners of the world championship, Samira Mustafayeva for the first time tried world championship's medal on.
I would like to speak about our group team, which occupied the fourth place in the world. If you remember they were 7th in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It was possible thanks to Chief Coach Mariana Vasileva's good job.
The long-awaited results were achieved in acrobatics. Some personnel replacements took place in this type of sports and the coaches were also replaced. Our women pair -
Ayla Ahmadova and Dilara Sultanova - was successful enough during the competitions and became European champions in Portugal. They won silver at World Games in Taiwan and World Cup in Russia. It would be right to remark services of Coach Irada Gurbanova, who put her heat and soul into the work.
There is small progress in tumbling, which was not developed in our country before. It is worth to mention very remarkable successes in this type of sports. Our junior jumper Mikhael Malkin was the sixth in the final exercise of the World Championship in Russia and was fifth in the qualification among 27 participants.
The artistic gymnasts also improve their skills. Shakir Shikhaliyev is training in Germany by our renowned compatriot, Olympic winner Valeriy Belenkiy and junior Elvin Agadadayev is training in Minsk.
New world and European championships await us next year. Furthermore, the European championships will qualify sportsmen for Junior Olympic Games due in Singapore. The calendar year is rich with different tournaments. The Federation will hold its portback election conference in 2010.
Q: You spoke about success of group team of Azerbaijan, who for the first time participated in the Beijing Olympic Games, occupying the seventh place. It is really a good result for our sportsmen. Silver that our juniors won at the last European Championship in Baku indicates for talented young growth in this type of gymnastics. Unfortunately, gymnasts leave the great sports too early. How does the Federation solve the problem of selection and training of young gymnasts for group teams and generally, in rhythmic gymnastic?
A: Well, you're right. Gymnasts' sports life is short and they leave the sports too early. Now a very promising young generation is growing in Azerbaijan. New sections have opened in Spartak and Sarhadchi sport societies. There is a new gymnastic section in Khirdalan. At the same time, sections in Ganja and other regions are functioning successfully. So, there is an opportunity to make choice.
Regarding the group teams, I should say Chief Coach Mariana Vasileva is involved in forming and training them. Presently, she is training two teams: junior and adult. The first team includes new gymnasts, who previously performed individually. They are preparing for the European championship and will fight for qualification for the Junior Olympic Games. Meanwhile, the staff of adults has changed - Vafa Huseynova and Valeriy Yegay have left the great sport and girls with an experience of performing in junior groups have replaced them.
Q: What is the progress with artistic gymnastics? One knows, too many medals are won in this type of sports in the Olympic Games. Can we expect our artistic gymnasts to participate in the London Olympic Games?
A: As I noted, our promising Shakir Shikhaliyev is now training in Germany. Trainers put him for European and world championships this year and he is improving his results. I hope him to be qualified for Olympic Games.
Elvin Agadadayev, another Azerbaijani sportsman, is to Minsk for the second time in this season to train with Belarusian coach for the European championship in order to qualify for the Junior Olympic Games.
We want to attract more and more children and trainers to the section. First of all, we need firm material basis. The foundation of the Gymnastic Complex was laid this year and its exploitation will provide every facility for gymnastics training.
Q: Presently, gymnasts from regions participate in the most republican gymnastics competitions, including the Baku open tournament. Do you plan to organize similar events out of the capital?
A: The point is that not every gymnasium meets the conventional norms for gymnastics. There are necessary conditions for gymnastics and acrobatic training in Devechi and Ganja. We plan to hold both training and tournaments in sports complexes of Ganja and Guba.
We have relevant experience. The last selection of trainers was held in the Masally Olympic Complex, where the group team gymnasts trained and performed before the local public in the run up to the 2008 Olympic Games.
So, we work in this direction and will popularize gymnastics all over Azerbaijan.