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Yana Batyrshina: "Future champions raised in Azerbaijan from scratch"

30 April 2019

Yana Batyrshina: "Future champions raised in Azerbaijan from scratch"

The three-day Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup attended by gymnasts from 39 countries was held in Baku. Atlanta Olympics All-around silver medalist Yana Batyrshina, who won nine world championship medals, including in the All-Around competition at the World Championships in 1995 and 1997, was an honored guest of the tournament. She told Vestnik Kavkaza about the World Cup, gymnastics and gymnasts.

- What are your impressions of the World Cup, considering that this is the last World Cup of this season?

- Baku always holds competitions at the highest level. It seems to me that the best competitions are held in this city: an amazing gymnastics arena, a lot of carpets, lighting and a brilliant organization. The light solution at the competition is very interesting with the gymnast being fully in the spotlight, it looks very cool. As for the sports component, then, as evidenced by the outcome, the competition in gymnastics is very strong now. The gymnastics from Belarus, from Israel were great. In short, the competition was interesting and spectacular.

- There are main tournaments in the capital of Azerbaijan ahead for the gymnasts - the European Championships, the World Championships. What do you expect from these competitions?

- I am in anticipation of the European Championship. I really want to see everything from beginning to end. Mariana Khanum [head coach of the Azerbaijani national rhythmic gymnastics team Mariana Vasileva - VK] said that it will be even better. Although I do not know ow it could be better, if now everything was amazingly organized. The World Cup will be the last before the Olympics. This is the last chance for gymnasts to get Olympic licenses. The competition will be incredible. I'm very much looking forward to this event.

- What will be your task as ambassador of the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in Baku?

- There is official information from the Gymnastics Federation that my main task is the popularization of gymnastics. At competitions I will award champions. But being in Baku, seeing Azerbaijani hospitality, I always want to do more. Now Mariana Khanum and I have said that there is a lot of work ahead: promotional and social videos, visiting orphanages, inviting children from orphanages, tickets giveaway, meeting at gymnastics clubs, master classes, just socializing and work at the tournament. After the World Championships in Baku is completed, the Yana Batyrshina Open Rhythmic Gymnastics Tournament will be held, which I have held in Moscow for six years, and this year it was decided to hold it in Azerbaijan. It is important that children who come to the World Championships will be able to stay here and prepare in the beautiful hall, where stars of world gymnastics train, where the carpet is still warm after star gymnasts' training. Little girls will perform on this carpet and compete for my prizes. Together with Mariana, we will hold this tournament in Baku for the first time.

- How many participants will take part in it?

- About 400 gymnasts from 10-12 countries come to the tournament in Moscow. I hope that there will be no less in Baku, and maybe even more. It is quite possible that there will be new for my tournament countries: those who could not get to Moscow will arrive in Baku.

- Do you follow the performance of Azerbaijani gymnasts? What about their progress in recent years?

- I do. Now there was a bitter  situation with the group exercise, when the leader and the captain of the team got a serious injury. Group gymnasts are very strong, they can act as a competitor to many. As for the individuals, there was a change of generations, and while it is difficult to aspire to medal positions. But juniors are very strong, I see a great prospect. When the Olympic cycle ends, their time will come. Future champions are raised from scratch in Azerbaijan. Of course, it is more difficult than inviting gymnasts, but it is more correct. And that is why the Azerbaijani rhythmic gymnastics team is valuable.

- You worked as the 'Vesti-Sport' and 'Vesti-Sport. Local Time. Moscow' presenter for the Russia-2 TV channel. Do not want to return to the TV?

- I was invited to 'Match TV', but I didn’t agree. I have other priorities in life: family, children, tournament. I don't have time for TV.

- You visited the Formula 1 event in Baku. Do you like the atmosphere in the city?

- It's my first time at the Formula 1 race. The atmosphere is great. Although there are a lot of people, everything is organized perfectly. We did not have to wait: we passed one stage, another, took our seats, everything was great. People are joyful and good-hearted, the park is magnificent. Speed is enormous. It is exciting.

- In the late 1990s, you were an idol for little girls. Today videos with your performances are very popular. And who was your role model back then?

- Maria Petrova, a Bulgarian gymnast, who, by the way, was the ambassador of the World Championships in Bulgaria last year. She is ideal for me. I still remember her routine by heart, often instead of doing my own routine in workouts, I did her routine. I loved Ukrainian gymnast Oksana Skaldina and Spanish gymnast Carolina Pascual. She was amazing at the Barcelona Olympics, I got goose bumps! It was a breakthrough, another level of gymnastics. Perhaps these three gymnasts who were my idols in the childhood.

- Is today's gymnastics different from that era?

- Of course. Nothing stands still, everything moves forward.

- Is it more difficult now?

- It is more difficult, but not in terms of risks, when you throw an apparatus and do something under it. Perhaps the risks were more difficult in our time. Today's complexity is of purely technical nature. When I performed, the gymnast did four pirouettes, and now 10-12. Now a junior does four pirouettes. I even asked them: "Girls, do you rub your slippers with something? How can you do a pirouette 10 times?" For me it is not clear. Now there are unique catches. In my time, they caught by a hand, but they catch with everything they can: with a head, with a left toe - with all parts of the body. In short, working with apparatus is very difficult, like in a circus. Even circus artists envy what gymnasts do with clubs, balls and ribbons.

- Experts and coaches sometimes say that new rules of gymnastics emphasize mastery at the expense of artistry and grace. What do you think?

- Perhaps, because, unfortunately, gymnasts often do not have time to show some kind of dance. Previously, if you did apparatus manipulation, there was definitely a connecting move, when you could do what you want - dancing, just walking with a ribbon, fit into an image. And now, unfortunately, gymnasts have no time: element by element, element after element. But those are the rules.