Azerbaijan: A Force To Be Reckoned With

November 29th, 2013 by Gymbit

Good news: Anna Pavlova has a new country, and it’s Azerbaijan!!!

When I think of gymnastics in Azerbaijan, only Valeri Belenki comes to mind (as well as a few rhythmic gymnasts that I don’t know anything about!). Belenki was a member of the CIS Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics that totally dominated the gymnastics scene, earning the bronze medal in the All Around. Here’s his routine on parallel bars when he was forced to compete as an “Unattached” gymnast the following year since the newly formed Azerbaijan was not yet a member of the FIG.

Valeri Belenki, 1993 World Championships, Parallel Bars Finals

Anyway, from now on Pavlova will represent her adopted country internationally, which means we should see her at the World Championships once again. Woohoo! In the past few years, the powers that be in Russia weren’t even considering her for a spot on World and Olympic teams, which was a real tragedy for gymnastics purists everywhere. Now we’ll get to see her in major competitions as she displays her elegant floor routines and aims for a medal on the balance beam. Here are some of her recent routines that were only seen in minor competition:

Anna Pavlova, 2011 Vault

Anna Pavlova, 2013 Uneven Bars

Anna Pavlova, 2012 Balance Beam

Anna Pavlova, 2013 Floor Exercise

Azerbaijan also picked up a couple of other top Russians, Konstantin Pluzhnikov and Yulia Inshina. Pluzhnikov was replaced as Russia’s rings specialist by Alexander Balandin at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds, so hopefully he will be able to contend for medals under a new flag. Inshina won a silver medal with her Russian team at the 2011 World Championships, but now that she represents Azerbaijan, she will have no trouble qualifying to Worlds and other major events.

Konstantin Pluzhnikov, 2011 European Championships, Still Rings Finals

Yulia Inshina, 2011 World Championships, Balance Beam Finals

Go Azerbaijan!

UPDATE: December 4, 2013.

Anna Pavlova represented Azerbaijan for the first time at the 2013 Voronin Cup in Moscow this week, placing 2nd in the All Around behind Ukrainian Alyona Vasilyeva. Pavlova’s teammate, Marina Nekrasova, finished 3rd AA.

UPDATE: March 7, 2014.

Azerbaijan has recruited 15 more gymnasts, headlined by 2012 Olympian Oleg Stepko of Ukraine. Stepko won the gold medal on parallel bars at the 2013 European Championships and two golds and two silvers at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. This blow to Ukraine comes on the heels of Nikolai (Mykola) Kuksenkov’s move to Russia.

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Apparatus Finals, Day 2 – 2013 World Championships

October 6th, 2013 by Gymbit

Men’s Vault 1. Yang Hak Seon (KOR) claimed the world title with a booming handspring triple-twisting front now named the Yang, and a Tsukahara triple-twist. I don’t know how he manages to twist so quickly! 2. Steven Legendre (USA) vaulted a superb Dragulescu with just a bit of a low landing that required a small hop to the side. He looked happy with his second vault, a high Tsukahara double pike with a step back….

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Apparatus Finals, Day 1 – 2013 World Championships

October 5th, 2013 by Gymbit

Men’s Floor Exercise 1. Kenzo Shirai (JPN) won the qualifying round by such a margin that the gold medal was his to lose. The best was saved for last, and Shirai performed 18.25 twists with fantastic landings before nailing his QUADRUPLE twist at the end of the routine. He looked elated at the end, and even King Kohei was on his feet for this one. Score: 16.000. 2. Jake Dalton (USA) won the silver medal with…

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Simone Biles Wins Worlds

October 5th, 2013 by Gymbit

Simone Biles and Kyla Ross teamed up for an American 1-2 in much the same fashion as Kohei Uchimura and Ryohei Kato did for Japan. Ross lead after the third rotation by the slimmest of margins, but Biles proved unbeatable with her amazing floaty tumbling: tucked double-double, double layout half-out (the Biles!), 2.5-twist punch layout front, tucked full-in. Ross demonstrated her trademark consistency and good form on her way to silver. Simone Biles (USA), AA Balance…

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King Kohei Wins Again!

October 3rd, 2013 by Gymbit

Today Kohei Uchimura (JPN) was crowned king of the Worlds for the fourth consecutive time (fifth including last year’s Olympic Games). He won in typical fashion, 1.958 points over teammate Ryohei Kato for a fantastic 1-2 Japanese finish. Fabian Hambüchen (GER) climbed his way up to the bronze medal after finding himself at the bottom of the standings in the first rotation! Kohei Uchimura (JPN), AA Floor Exercise, 2013 World Championships Ryohei Kato (JPN), AA…

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