European Championship: Who Will Make the Top 8?

The 2015 European Championship for individual seniors and junior groups is less than two weeks away. This year, Minsk, the capital city of Belarus, will host this exciting event.  I hope this means the girls from Belarus will win medals!

As far as the top 8 for this event, I expect that the first 4 will contain two Russians, Rizatdinova from the Ukraine and Staniouta from Belarus. The big question for me is whether Mamun from Russia will perform and whether she will finally show her routines in their shining, flawless quality, especially the clubs. I think Rita has better routines than the other 2 Russians and she deserves to get rewarded for them. Will Rita perform confidently? Nobody can question she has shown masterful execution with hoop and ribbon. But she needs to take the ball routine, and especially the clubs, to the same level.

For spots 4-7, I see the following gymnasts fighting quite an exciting battle: the experienced Neta Rivkin from Israel, the young, but wonderful Katsyarina Halkina from Belarus, and Marina Durunda from Azerbaijan who absolutely  dazzled at the last couple of big tournaments. My preference is for Durunda and Halkina and I hope they motivate more seasoned gymnasts to show new, more interesting routines.Although I love Durunda, I think the home advantage will really boost Halkina in Minsk.  Halkina' s hoop is her strongest exercise, but I also see a lot of promise for her ball routine, which she performs with this elegant blue leotard.

But I would like to hope that Marina Durunda will step up to the challenge to show that she is a better and more interesting gymnast than many in the elite, with very intense routines, and exceptionally clean lines. Marina got a lot of praise for her exciting ribbon routine. I also love her hoop exercise very much and would love to see her receive higher scores for all of her hard work, and all the control and elegance she shows.

Who will take the 8th spot? This is perhaps the most interesting question. While several gymnasts have a chance including Moustafaeva from France, Filanovsky from Israel, and Shafizada from Azerbaijan, my favorites for entering the elite this year are the Greek Varvara Filiou who has added  a lot of difficulty and even more expression to her routines, and, most importantly, the Georgian star Salome Pazhava.  Salome has already shown quite a strong presence, especially with clubs and hoop. Here is Salome preparing for her exceptional dance with knives to traditional Georgian music. Blue does seem to be this season's color!

I would still like to hope that this championship will be a big break for Varvara, who totally deserves a spot among the world's best athletes.


New Ukrainian Star Rises

I have been following the young Ukrainian Eleonora Romanova and hoping that she would go to more competitions so we can enjoy her performances. This routine from the training for the World Cup in Pesaro, Italy, truly proves that she is ready to join the world elite:

Eleonora Romanova was born in 1988 in Krasnodon, Ukraine. She moved to Kiev when she was 11 to start working with Albina Deriugina. Romanova was the 2013 absolute Ukrainian junior champion winning golds at all 4 finals. At the 2012 European Junior Championships, she placed 6th with hoop and 8th with ribbon.

In an interview with the Ukrainian media, her father said that she is a very determined person, while the journalists noted that she looks like a professional model. I am very glad she picked gymnastics, and not modeling, and hope we get to see her perform more interesting routines in the future, so that all of her talent would truly shine.


Katsyarina Halkina and Her Brave, Brave Heart

This year Katsyarina Halkina from Belarus has been performing very risky routines and winning medals. We still think of her as the novice on the team, always following the established leader Staniouta. But did you know that in 2011, when Halkina was only 14, she had to make a decision whether to have heart surgery in order to continue her training as a world-class athlete?

This interview with her (in Russian) explains that she had to have a surgical procedure involving a heart valve, so that she could be able to support the extreme physical demands of training and competitive sport:

If Halkina had chosen to leave competitive sport, she would have been able to have a normal life without surgery. But she made a choice to follow her talent and passion.

Halkina, her family and coaches must feel very proud of the choice she made as a human being and an athlete, which is to always to try to improve, despite unexpected difficulties and circumstances she cannot control.

I would like to share her wonderful hoop routine as I wish strength and health to all athletes so overcome challenges, even with the help of medicine, but mostly due to their own determination and courage.