By Yuri Karpenko
Belarus was hosting the high ranking competition for the first time, having earned the right through numerous awards won at major tournaments — including world and European championships and the Olympics. Of course, the Republic boasts rich experience in hosting various international sports events, including in rhythmic gymnastics.
About 200 gymnasts arrived in Minsk from 35 European countries, including such leaders as Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Italy, Switzerland and Israel. A traditional show of global gymnastic stars crowned the tournament, which was held at Belarus’ best indoor sports complex — Minsk-Arena. Its organisers did a great job of ensuring the European Championship was held at a worthy level. According to the state coach in rhythmic gymnastics, Victoria Kushnir, Minsk-Arena was ready to host the tournament several days ahead of schedule. The International Gymnastics Federation’s Technical Committee spent two days overseeing the facility, testing equipment and the Arena’s overall readiness. They noted that Belarus is the first state where the Committee’s work has gone without a hitch.
“The venue for the European Championship boasts the most modern infrastructure, enabling the tournament to be held at a high level. For sportswomen, this competition is part of their training for the World Championship in French Montpellier, which is to host a selection round for the 2012 London Olympics in October. I’m impressed with Minsk-Arena, which is a super modern multi-functional complex, with a velodrome and skating rink, in addition to a hockey rink,” said Ruedi Hediger, the Vice-President of the European Union of Gymnastics.
Our Belarusian sportswomen gathered a rich medals harvest at the tournament, capturing six in all: three gold, two silver and one bronze. Lyubov Cherkashina shone especially brightly, leading with her exercise with ball and clubs. She also took bronze in her exercise with the hoop. In the all-round team event, the hosts of the tournament (Lyubov Cherkashina, Melita Stanyuta and Anna Ryabtseva) were placed second, behind Russia and ahead of Ukraine. More medals were captured by junior graces: in the team all-round, Kristina Kostevich, Darya Antyukhevich, Alesya Lozhka, Maria Kotyak, Yekaterina Smusenok and reserve Alexandra Popova took gold and captured silver in the group exercise with a skipping rope. In the medals ranking, Russia was placed first, followed by Belarus.
Among the European Championship’s guests were former stars such as Irina Chashchina, Anna Bessonova and Olga Kapranova. The latter three participated in the traditional show of stars.