As the 26th European Championships in trampoline, double mini-trampoline and tumbling prepares to get under way in Baku, each federation has chosen the teams that they are hoping will lead them to glory in each discipline.
And the competition will be fierce among the 600+ gymnasts in the individual and synchronised trampoline, double mini-trampoline and tumbling events, with some of the world’s best set to be in action in the Azerbaijani capital.
In the men’s competition, Uladzislau Hancharou of Belarus will be the one to beat. He comes into the competition as the defending European champion, having won the title in 2014 and 2016. But the Olympic champion will face tough competition from the 2016 European silver medallist Dmitriy Ushakov and his Russian teammates Mikhail Melnik and Sergey Azarian. Great Britain’s Luke Strong and Nathan Bailey, who were bronze medallists in 2014 and 2016 respectively, will be hoping move further up the podium with a top-two finish. Not to be counted out are Sébastien Martiny and Allan Morante of France and the host nation’s Ilya Grishunin.
In the women’s event, there are two noticeable absentees, the current world champion, Tatsiana Piatrenia of Belarus and Rio 2016 silver medallist Bryony Page. While they will be missed, the competition will still be hard fought without them. Yana Pavlova of Russia is back to defend the title that she won in 2016. But she will be challenged all of the way by Hanna Hancharova (formerly known as Hanna Harchonak) of Belarus. In her 8th senior championships, Kat Driscoll will be aiming to secure her third European medal in a row. Drawing on her experience will be her Great Britain teammates, European Games competitor Laura Gallagher and World and European junior champion Izzy Songhurst. Also in the event are Olympians Ana Rente of Portugal, Ukraine’s Natalia Moskvina and Georgia’s Luba Golovina.
Uladzislau Hancharou of Belarus defends another European title, the men’s synchro one. In 2016, he teamed up with Mikalai Kazak to take the gold. This time, Aleh Rabtsau, with whom he won the world title in 2017, joins him for this event. Russia’s Dmitriy Ushakov partners with Andrey Yudin to make a bid for the title, while Sébastien Martiny and Allan Morante of France and Diogos Abreu and Ganchinho of Portugal will challenge them.
The ladies event, the competition is so tight that anyone could win. The smart money would be on defending champions Marine Jurbert and Léa Labrousse of France, but also present are the 2016 silver medallists, Susana Kochesok of Russia and her partner Yana Pavlova, as well as bronze medallists Ana Rente and Beatriz Martins (POR).
The man to beat is without a doubt Mikhail Zalomin of Russia. As a multiple European and world champion, he has done it all, which included winning the 2017 World Games in Wroclaw, Poland. And very few gymnasts in the world can match him in terms of technique and execution. His thoughts in Baku will be on defending the title he won in Valladolid in 2016 and Gummies in 2014. But he will be challenged all of the way by his teammate Aleksandr Odintsov and Daniel Perez of Spain.
In the ladies event, Polina Troianova of Russia goes head to head with Sweden’s Lina Sjoeberg. Sjoeberg won the title two years ago in Spain, nudging the then-defending champion Troianova into second place so both women will want to be stood on the summit of the podium once again. They will find competition in the form of Kirsty Way of Great Britain and Russia’s Irina Alekseeva.
All eyes are sure to be on the tumble track as Azerbaijan’s Mikhail Malkin, the winner of the 17-21 category at the 2017 World Age Group Championships, steps up to take on the best of Europe’s seniors. The strong field includes, from Great Britain, former world and European champion Kristof Willerton, world bronze medallist Elliot Browne, Greg Townley and Kallum Mulhall; Aleksandr Lisitsyn, Maksim Shlyakin, Grigory Noskov and Vadim Afanasev of Russia, Denmark’s Anders Wesch and his teammate Rasmus Steffensen, who won the junior title in 2016.
In the ladies’ event, Anna Korobeynikova will be aiming to cement her place in the tumbling hall of famer (if there was one) with a successful defence of the title. But she will be pushed all the way by Great Britain’s Lucie Colebeck, a former champion herself, Colebeck’s teammate Rachel Davies, Tachina Peeters of Belgium. However, don’t count out Viktoria Danilenko of Russia or Marie Deloge of France of getting a medal either.