Russia’s Arina Averina will defend her all-around title at the Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships that start in tomorrow in Azerbaijan against a powerful field that includes last year’s silver medallist, her 20-year-old twin sister Dina.
While the latter, who is 20 minutes the junior of the two, has won two all-around world titles – in 2017 and 2018 – she has not matched her sister in a European context so far in their careers.
Aleksandra Soldatova, who has three world and two European team gold medals, has also been included on the Russian team.
Azerbaijan’s Veronika Hudis and Zohra Aghamirova will benefit from huge home support from the crowd in the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku that was constructed for the 2015 European Games.
It is the fourth time that Azerbaijan will host this competition, which this year is for junior groups and senior individuals.
A total of 35 federations are taking part and 196 gymnasts are scheduled to compete, including 81 senior individuals and 115 gymnasts forming junior groups.
Belarus are expected to challenge strongly with their trio of Ekaterina Halkina, Anastasia Salos and Alina Harnasko.
Israel will also be in the hunt for medals, fielding 2018 world all-around silver medallist Linoy Ashram and Nicol Zelikman, while the traditionally strong Bulgaria challenge will be carried by Katrin Taseva, Neviana Vladinova and Boryana Kaleyn.
Italy will be represented by Alexandra Agiurgiuculese and Milena Baldassarri, while kraine will field the rising talents of Vlada Nikolchenko and Viktoria Onoprienko.
The first three days are qualification for both categories and the combined scores will determine the team rankings.
Tomorrow, the junior groups present their exercise with 5 hoops, before the senior individuals complete their hoop and ball routines on Friday (May 17).
On Saturday (May 18), the junior groups present their exercise with 5 ribbons and the senior individuals compete with clubs and ribbon.
The best eight gymnasts per apparatus and the eight best groups qualify for the event finals which will be held on Sunday (May 19).
The top 24 individuals in the all-around guarantee their country a starting place at next year’s European Championships.