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  • Rhythmic Gymnasts from all over the world eye Paris spot in Sofia


    Gymnastics will know its first Olympic qualifiers over the next few days as the 2022 FIG Rhythmic World Championships take place in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Armeets Arena in Sofia is perhaps best known as home to the Bulgarian volleyball team, as well as the ATP Sofia Open tennis tournament, but in the coming week some of the best rhythmic gymnasts in the world will compete.


    Up for grabs are three places each in the Individual and Group competitions (only women compete in this discipline). It should be noted that there are at most two places in the individual competition per NOC, and hosts France are already guaranteed of one individual and one group place, although they are unlikely to cause too many headaches here.


    Looking at the individual lists, it's a whole new look for the Israeli team, with Olympic champion Linoy Ashram retiring from the sport earlier this year, and Nicol Zelikman, who finished 7th in Tokyo also calling quits on elite competition. However, blue and white hopes will instead be put on Daria Atamanov, whose European gold earlier this year showed she was worthy of carrying Ashram's torch. Adi Asya Katz, who came 11th in Tel Aviv, is also on the Israeli team. In fact, none of the three medallists will be in Sofia, as Dina Averina (ROC) and Alina Harnasko (Belarus) both come from countries that are banned from competing. Other Tokyo finalists will be there, with home favourite Boryana Kaleyn, who came fifth in Tokyo, considered Atamanov's greatest threat for gold: she was runner-up at the Europeans in Tel Aviv. Considering that the ten finalists in Tokyo were all European, it is hard not to consider that a warm-up for this week's event, and other athletes including bronze medallist Stiliana Nikolova (Bulgaria), Sofia Raffaeli (Italy) and Darja Varfolomeev (Germany) will be hoping for a quota place. Sixty-two countries representing all five continents will be represented in Sofia, all bar Venezuela have at least one individual: in total, eighty-two athletes will enter.


    In the group competition, Bulgaria won gold in Tokyo and it's of course natural to focus on them first especially considering the venue, but an all-new group will take part this time, comprising of none of the Olympic champions. Bulgaria still came fourth in Tel Aviv, where Israel won gold. There will be a fair heap of pressure of course, especially with a home crowd watching, including the champions. Israel are another big contender, coming sixth in Tokyo. Silver medallists the ROC of course are absent, but Olympic bronze medallists and European runners-up Italy will hope to medal here too. Azerbaijan came tenth in Tokyo, but a bronze in Tel Aviv means they will have to be considered. Moving away from Europe, the Asian trio of Uzbekistan, Japan, and China will be hoping to cause a splash, although a medal may be beyond their reach somewhat. Twenty-nine groups compete in total, with Africa the only continent left out: Angola, Egypt, and South Africa instead focusing on individual competition.



    “This World Championship represents a milestone on the road to Paris 2024. Sofia is a city that knows and loves Rhythmic, whose passionate spectators will live and breathe each moment of this event. I could not be more pleased that the first 2024 Olympic qualification event in our sport is taking place here.”

    Morinari Watanabe, FIG President

    The individual qualification begins on September 14, with the final on September 17. The group event is on September 16.


    Writer, Totallympics News


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