Team Preview: Bulgaria

Note: Last minute changes are always possible

Bulgaria is located within Eastern Europe. Bulgaria was one of the original 14 nations to have participated at the 1896 Olympics. After that their participation was initially sparse with them only participating at the 1924, 1928 and 1936 Olympics. At the 1952 Olympics and onwards Bulgaria participated at every Olympics with the exception of the Soviet led boycott of 1984. Historically Bulgaria was a fairly strong nation at the Olympics as they posted top 10 finishes during the 1970s and 80s. In total they have won 214 medals at the Summer Olympics with wrestling and weightlifting being their best sports. However as the 90s came their performance diminished from easily breaking double digits to struggling to win medals. In 2012 the nation finished with two medals and failed to win a gold medal for the first time since 1952. Overall their medal prospects do not look good, especially after their weightlifting team was banned due to a doping scandal.

Bulgaria’s best chance at winning a medal will likely come in rhythmic gymnastics. In the team event Bulgaria won a gold medal at the 2014 World Championship and followed it with a silver medal at the 2015 World Championship. Four members from those teams will compete; Renata Kamberova, Mihaela Maevska, Tsvetelina Naydenova and Hristiana Todorova. The fifth member will be Lyubomira Kazanova as she will replace Tsvetlina Stoyanova whom suffered a fall from a six story building. In the individual all-around event Bulgaria will be represented by Neviana Vladinova.

In wrestling Bulgaria will send a team of 11 athletes in hopes to win a medal. The team will be led by 2015 World Championship bronze medalists Vladimir Dubov in the men’s freestyle -57kg and Taybe Yusein in the women’s freestyle -63kg. Also competing are 2016 European bronze medalists Daniel Aleksandrov (men’s Greco-Roman -75kg), Elitsa Yankova (women’s freestyle -48kg) and Mimi Hristova (women’s freestyle -58kg). The only returning Olympian in wrestling will be Elis Guri (men’s Greco-Roman -98kg) whom will compete in his third Olympics, second as an athlete from Bulgaria (he competed for Albania in 2008). Completing the team are Borislav Novachlov (men’s freestyle -65kg), Georgi Ivanov (men’s freestyle -74kg), Mihail Ganev (men’s freestyle -86kg), Dimitar Kumchev (men’s freestyle -125kg) and Nikolay Bayryakov (men’s Greco-Roman -85kg).

Another potential chance at winning a medal is in judo where Ivaylo Ivanov leads the two person team in the men’s -81kg. Ivanov has won one Grand Slam event in 2015 and followed it up with multiple medals in Grand Slams during the 2016 season. Joining him will be Yanislav Gerchev whom will compete in the men’s -60kg.

In shooting Bulgaria will compete with three athletes. 2015 European Championship gold medalist Anton Rizov will compete in his second Olympics in men’s 10m air rifle, 50m rifle 3 positions and 50m rifle prone. Joining him in her second Olympics is 2016 European Championship silver medalist Antoaneta Boneva whom will compete in the women’s 10m air pistol and 25m pistol. Rounding out the group will be Samuil Donkov in the men’s 10m air pistol and 50m pistol.

Bulgaria will send a sizable athletics team led by Gabriela Petrova in the women’s triple jump. Petrova finished fourth at the 2015 World Championship. Another athlete to watch would be Mirela Demireva whom will compete in the women’s high jump. One of the veterans of the group will be Ivet Lalova-Collio. She will be competing in her fourth Olympics in the women’s 100m and 200m and could push for a repeat the final appearance she made in the 200m at the 2015 World Championship. Making his third Olympic appearance will be Georgi Ivanov in the men’s shot put. Other 2012 returning athletes include Silvia Danekova (women’s 3000m steeplechase) and 2015 European Indoor Championship bronze medalist Radoslava Mavrodieva (women’s shot put). Other competing athletes include Rumen Dimitrov (men’s triple jump), Tihomir Ivanov (men’s high jump), Militsa Mircheva (women’s marathon), Mitko Tsenov (men’s 3000m steeplechase) and 2010 Youth Olympics bronze medalist Georgi Tsonov (men’s triple jump)

In boating events Bulgaria will compete in two sports. In canoeing the team will be led by 2014 World Championship silver medalist Miroslav Kirchev in the men’s K1 1000m. He will be joined by Angel Kodinov in the men’s C1 1000m. In rowing Bulgaria will send one boat; Georgi Bozhilov and Kristian Vasilev will compete in the men’s double sculls.

In tennis Bulgaria will be represented by 2012 Olympian Grigor Dimitrov in the men’s singles. Dimitrov became the first player from Bulgaria to break into the top 10 in the world rankings. His best performance was reaching the semi-final at the 2014 Wimbledon Open. He will be joined by Tsvetana Pironkova whom will compete in the women’s singles. Recently Pironkova reached the quarter-final at the 2016 French Open.

Other returning athletes include swimmers Ventsislav Aydarski and Nina Rangelova. Aydarski will compete in his second Olympics in the men’s 10km open water while Rangelova will compete in her third Olympics in the women’s 100m freestyle. Joining them will be Aleksandar Nikolov whom will compete in the men’s 100m freestyle.

Three athletes will represent Bulgaria in badminton. 2015 European Games gold medalist and sisters Gabriela and Stefani Stoeva will compete in the women’s doubles. They will be joined by Linda Zechiri who will compete in the women’s singles.

In boxing Bulgaria will be represented by Daniel Asenov (men’s flyweight), Simeon Charnov (men’s welterweight) and Stanimira Petrova (women’s flyweight). Other sports Bulgaria will participate in include; cycling (Stefan Hristov, men’s road race), fencing (Pancho Paskov, men’s sabre) and modern pentathlon (Dimitar Krastanov, men’s event).

Overall Bulgaria will send 51 athletes to compete in 14 sports. This will actually be their smallest athlete delegation since 1956.

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