15 to watch at this week's 2015 European Games12/06/2015
The inaugural European Games, the first pan-European multisport event, gets underway this week in Baku. It's a historic moment for Gymnastics as well -- for the first time, all competitive disciplines of the popular Olympic sport will be contested at the same event, some in the same arena at the same time.
While Men's and Women's Artistic Gymnastics finals will take place at the same time in the same venue, as will competitions in Aerobic and Trampoline, and Acrobatic and Rhythmic.
The event has already proven popular with the European Gymnastics community, and national federations are sending their best to Baku. The list of medal contenders is long, but here 15 athletes to look out for:
Viktoria Komova (RUS), top, and Nile Wilson (GBR) will be going for gold in Artistic Gymnastics at the upcoming European Games in Baku (AZE).
1. Viktoria Komova, RUS, Women's Artistic Gymnastics. The 2012 Olympic All-around silver medallist and fan favorite has not competed at a major international since London three years ago due to several unluckily timed injuries. This time however, Komova, who turns 20 this year, seems calm and confident about success, according to recent interviews.
2. Oleg Stepko, AZE, Men's Artistic Gymnastics. The 2012 Ukrainian Olympic team member, who rose to prominence at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, is the ace of the Azerbaijani men's team. Stepko is best on Parallel Bars, but he's definitely an All-around threat as well. Among his biggest rivals for a crown in Baku may be his former teammates Nikolai Kuksenkov, now wearing a Russian uniform, and reigning European champion Oleg Verniaiev, who still competes for Ukraine.
3. Nile Wilson, GBR, Men's Artistic Gymnastics. The best Junior gymnast in Europe for the past several years, Wilson made a successful transition to the competitive British senior team last year after winning a whopping five gold medals at the Junior European Championships. A wrist injury kept him from realising his full potential at the World Championships, but he's healthy and ready to show what he can do at the European Games.
4. Giulia Steingruber, SUI, Women's Artistic Gymnastics. Steingruber made history for Switzerland by becoming the first Swiss women to win a European All-around title in April. In Baku, she'll have the opportunity to test herself against some of her biggest rivals who weren't at the Montpellier Euros, namely Russians Aliya Mustafina and reigning Youth Olympic Games champion Seda Tutkhalyan, who is getting her first big senior start in Baku.
5. Marina Durunda, AZE, Rhythmic Gymnastics. In Rhythmic, all eyes will be on two-time World champion Yana Kudryavtseva (RUS), who has proven herself almost unbeatable when she's on in competition, but as the best Rhythmic gymnast in Azerbaijan and Ambassador for the Games, Ukrainian-born Durunda will get a big share of the attention as well. While her international results haven't yet put her in the same sphere as Kudryavtseva or Margarita Mamun (RUS), Durunda has been knocking at the door. It could open more to her this week.
Rhythmic gymnast Marina Durunda (AZE), top, and Mixed Pairs World champion Marina Chernova (RUS) will also be in the medal hunt in Baku.
6. Uladzislau Hancharou, BLR, Men's Trampoline. The young Belarusian came away with two medals from the 2014 World Trampoline Championships, his first as a senior, winning bronze in Men's Individual and silver in Synchro with jumping partner Mikalai Kazak. This time, the medal could be gold.
7. Marina Chernova and Gregory Pataraya, RUS, Acrobatic Gymnastics. The uber-popular Mixed Pairs and Women's Trio will be the Acro staples contested in Baku. Chernova was half of the Mixed Pair that brought the World title back to Russia at last year's World Championships in Levallois (FRA). She'll be competing in Baku with Pataraya, her new partner.
8. Vicente Lli and Sara Moreno, ESP, Aerobic Gymnastics. Veterans Lli and Moreno were hot on the World Cup circuit this year, winning the FIG World Cup title. Both have achieved a lot -- Moreno was the 2012 World Champion in Women's Individual, while Lli has competed in multiple World finals -- but at the European Games they'll be striving not just for medals but to heighten awareness of the Aerobic discipline at a multisport Games.
9. Ineke van Schoor, Julie van Gelder and Kaat Dumarey, BEL, Acrobatic Gymnastics. Perhaps the most expressive and dramatic Trio competing today in Acro, the reigning World bronze medallists achieved gold at the Varna World Cup in Bulgaria several weeks ago and were able to fit in competing on Belgium's Got Talent while preparing for Baku. With titles up for grabs in the All-around as well in Balance and Dynamic exercises, the Belgian trio is aspiring to multiple medals.
11. Kat Driscoll, GBR, Women's Trampoline. Driscoll, Britain's lone female trampolinist at the 2012 London Olympics, has since added a World Games and World Championships title to her list of accomplishments. But those have come in the Synchro category. Coming off a fourth-place individual finish at last year's World Championships -- and with the three who were ahead of her not in the Baku field -- she will have a chance to add an individual title all her own.
10. Team FRA, Aerobic Gymnastics. Since hosting the first Aerobic World Championships in Paris 20 years ago this year, the French have had a special affection and affinity for Aerobic Gymnastics. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Group competition, where their enthusiasm and excellent technique is apparent. Sit back and enjoy the show.
Related: Fore more information on the 2015 European Games, including the competition format, news, videos, schedules and results as well as athlete profiles, please visit the event website at http://www.baku2015.com.
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