Team Preview: Azerbaijan

Note: Last minute changes are always possible

Azerbaijan is a nation found in the Transcaucasian region. After gaining independence from the Soviet Union the nation made its Summer Olympic debut in 1996 and has competed ever since. The nation has won an Olympic medal at every Olympics it has participated with a total of 26 medals, 14 of them won in the sport of wrestling. Azerbaijan will be hoping to set a new total medals record which was set in 2012 where they won 10. For this to occur Azerbaijan will be looking to have a good performance in the combat sports, particularly wrestling.

Overall Azerbaijan will send a team of 14 athletes in wrestling, including medalists from large events and a complete men’s freestyle team. In total six athletes will be defending their Olympic medals; 2012 gold medalist Toghrul Asgarov (men’s freestyle -65kg), 2012 gold medalist Sharif Sharifov (men’s freestyle -86kg), 2008 and 2012 silver medalist Rovshan Bayramov (men’s Greco-Roman -59kg), 2008 and 2012 bronze medalist Khetag Gazyumov (men’s freestyle -97kg), 2012 bronze medalist Yuliya Ratkevic (women’s freestyle -58kg) and 2008 bronze and 2012 silver medalist Mariya Stadnik (women’s freestyle -48kg). The athletes for the most part are still in top tier shape and could all challenge for a medal. For example Asgarov is the 2015 European Games gold medalist, Bayramov has won silver at the 2015 World Championship, Gazyumov has won bronze at the 2015 World Championship, Ratkevic has also won bronze at the 2015 World Championship and Stadnik is the silver medal winner at the 2015 World Championship.

Other potential medal winners in wrestling include 2015 World Championship gold medalists Haji Aliyev (men’s freestyle -57kg) and Rasul Chunayev (men’s Greco-Roman -66kg). Both Aliyev and Chunayev will be competing outside of their normal weight class due to the event not existing in the Olympics. Other 2015 World Championship medalists include silver medalist and 2012 Olympian Jamaladdin Magomedov (men’s freestyle -125kg) and bronze medalist Saman Tahmasebi (men’s Greco-Roman -85kg) who will compete in his third Olympics. Also competing are 2012 Olympian and 2016 European Championship silver medalist Jabrayil Hasanov (men’s freestyle -74kg), 2015 European Games gold medalist Elvin Mursaliyev (men’s Greco-Roman -75kg), Sabah Shariati (men’s Greco-Roman -130kg) and Anzhela Dorogan (women’s freestyle -53kg).

Azerbaijan will also be hoping to win multiple medals in boxing as they will send a complete men’s team and one woman. The team will be led by 2015 World Championship gold medalist Elvin Mamishzada whom will compete in his second Olympics in the men’s flyweight. Other World Championship medalists competing for Azerbaijan include silver medalist Albert Slimov (men’s lightweight) whom will compete in his second Olympics after competing for Russia in 2008 and bronze medalists Parviz Baghirov and Abdulkadir Abdullayev will compete in the men’s welterweight and men’s heavyweight respectively. Returning Olympic medalists include 2012 bronze medalists Teymur Mammadov (men’s light heavyweight) and Magomedrasul Majidov (men’s super heavyweight). Other competitors include 2014 Youth Olympic gold medalist Rufat Huseynov (men’s light flyweight), 2013 World Championship gold medalist Javid Chalabiyev (men’s bantamweight), Lorenzo Sotomayor (men’s light welterweight), Kamran Shakhsuvarly (men’s middleweight) and 2015 European Games bronze medalist Yana Alekseevna (women’s lightweight).

Azerbaijan will compete with the maximum team in taekwondo after qualifying two men and two women. The team will be led by -87kg 2015 World Championship gold medalist Radik Isayev who qualified in the +80kg weight category as one of the highest ranked athletes. 2012 Olympian Farida Azizova makes her return in the women’s -67kg. She is a silver and bronze medalist at the 2015 European Games and 2013 World Championship respectively. The rest of the team is made up of 2015 European Games gold medalist Milad Beigi in the men’s -80kg and 2015 European Games bronze medalist Patimat Abakarova whom will compete in the women’s -49kg.

In judo Azerbaijan will also send a strong team. 2016 European Championship gold medalist Rustam Orujov will compete in his second Olympics in the men’s -73kg. Also a medalist at the 2016 European Championship is silver medalist Orkhan Safarov whom will compete in the men’s -60kg. The men’s -100kg will feature 2012 Olympian and 2014 European Championship silver medalist Elmar Gasimov. The other members of the team include Nijat Shikhalizade (men’s -66kg), Mammadali Mehdiyev (men’s -90kg) and Ushangi Kakauri (men’s +100kg).

In artistic gymnastics Azerbaijan will be represented by two athletes. Oleg Stepko will be making his second Olympic appearance and first as an athlete from Azerbaijan, he represented Ukraine in 2012. He won the bronze medal in the pommel horse at the 2015 World Championship and won four individual medals at the 2015 European Games including gold on the pommel horse and silver on the individual all-around. He will be joined by Petro Pakhnyuk in the men’s events. In rhythmic gymnastics Azerbaijan will be represented by 2015 European Games ribbon silver medalist Marina Durunda whom will compete in the individual all-around event.

In boating sports Azerbaijan will compete in canoeing and rowing. Canoeing will be led by a veteran presence, Inna Osypenko-Radomska in the women’s K1 200m and K1 500m. Osypenko-Radomska is a four-time Olympic medalist including winning gold in 2008. This will be her fifth Olympics though first under the Azerbaijan flag, she competed for Ukraine until 2014. Another former Ukrainian and now current athlete from Azerbaijan is Valentin Demyaneko. Demyaneko however, has mostly competed for Azerbaijan, competing in the 2012 Olympics, winning three World Championship gold medals and winning silver at the 2015 European Games. In the canoe slalom Azerbaijan will compete with Jure Meglic in the men’s K1 slalom.

In rowing Azerbaijan will send one boat. 2012 Olympian Aleksandar Aleksandrov will move up a boat size and will compete in the men’s double sculls with Boris Yotov. Together they have won silver at the 2014 World Championship.

In athletics Azerbaijan will send a team of four athletes. The team will be led by 2012 Ukrainian Olympian Hanna Skydan in the women’s hammer throw. As an Azerbaijan athlete she has won gold at the 2015 Universiade Games. She will be joined by 2015 European Junior Championship gold medalist Nazim Babyev in the triple jump, 2012 Olympian Hayle Ibrahimov will compete in the men’s 5000 and Evans Kiplagat in the men’s marathon.

The cycling team for Azerbaijan will compete in two disciplines. On the track Olga Panarina will compete in the women’s sprint and keirin. This will be her second Olympics and first as an athlete from Azerbaijan, she competed for Belarus in 2012. In road cycling Azerbaijan will be represented by Maksym Averin in the men’s road race and Olena Pavlukhina in the women’s road race.

Azerbaijan will be making its Olympic debut in archery (Olga Senyuk, women’s individual) and triathlon (Rostyslav Pevtsov, men’s race). Other sports Azerbaijan will compete include fencer Sabina Mikina whom will be competing in her second Olympics in the women’s sabre and sport shooter Ruslan Lunev whom will compete in men’s 10m air pistol and 25m rapid fire pistol. In swimming two athletes will compete Fatima Alkaramova (women’s 100m freestyle) and Boris Kirillov (men’s 200m backstroke).

Overall Azerbaijan will compete with 56 athletes in 14 sports. This will be the largest ever delegation of athletes Azerbaijan have ever sent.

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