By qualifying for the
2003 World Championships all-around final in 11th place,
Dinara Gimatova of Azerbaijan became
the first rhythmic gymnast from her country to earn
a berth to the Olympic Games. Gimatova, who eventually
finished eighth at the 2003 Worlds, is now preparing
for next summer's Games in Athens.
already the most successful rhythmic gymnast to represent
Azerbaijan, a country of nearly eight million people
which in 1991 gained its indepedence from the former
Soviet Union. Bordering the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan
is surrounded by Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Iran.
Azerbaijan is also the native country of 1990 artistic
gymnastics World Cup all-around champion Valery Belenky,
who represented the Soviet Union and, later, Germany.
Belenky's other achievements included a gold medal on
pommel horse at the 1991 and 1997 Worlds, the all-around
bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics, and the 1990 World
Cup all-around title.
Gimatova was born in Astrakhan,
Russia, but her nationality is Azeri. Her parents were
born in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. They, too,
live in Astrakhan, and periodically visit Baku.
Gimatova, who has been competing on the Azerbaijan national
team for two years, trains in Moscow under coach Irina
Viner. Her training partners include reigning world
all-around champion Alina Kabayeva and world all-around
bronze medalist Irina Chaschina.
In the past two
years Gimatova has earned consistent results on the
international circuit. One of her most significant performances
came during this past summer's World Cup competition
in Baku. There, Gimatova won three medals - including
the all-around bronze behind Kabayeva and Chaschina.
Gimatova, who enjoys reading and listening to music,
says her favorite event is clubs. She says she is not
the only rhythmic gymnast from Azerbaijan with talent,
though. "I think that in forthcoming tournaments,
each member of our team will make her presence felt,"
she told Azerbaijan's Olympic World.
She also cites
the support of Mehriban Aliyeva, head of the Azerbaijan
Gymnastics Federation. Aliyeva is the wife of Azerbaijan's
Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev.
presence should continue to help elevate the sport in
Azerbaijan, which is preparing to host the 2004 World
Cup of Baku (April 24-25) and the 2005 World Championship
2005, also in Baku.