Golden girl Durunda pleased with return

15 May 2017
Azerbaijan's Marina Durunda competes during the Rhythmic Gymnastics Individual Women Apparatus Finals
Azerbaijan's Marina Durunda competes during the Rhythmic Gymnastics Individual Women Apparatus Finals
Azerbaijan's Marina Durunda competes during the Rhythmic Gymnastics Individual Women Apparatus Finals

Azerbaijani hero Marina Durunda said she was proud of her three Islamic Solidarity Games gold medals, but insisted that she will improve after returning from a long injury absence in Baku.

The 19-year-old had surgery in France to help with her recovery from a hand problem.

But, in her first competition since last year's Olympic final in Rio de Janeiro, Durunda won rhythmic gymnastics golds in the team, hoop and ribbon events in front of a partisan home crowd at the National Gymnastics Arena.

Now she is looking forward to next week's European championships in Budapest.

"It (the hand) is much better and I hope that at the European championships I will get better scores and work on my mistakes," she told AFP-Services on Sunday.

"I know that I could have done better, but I'm happy because it's not a bad result.

"This was very tiring because after the injury I had to work so hard. So I hope that maybe we will get one day off."

Durunda's teammate Zhala Piriyeva picked up four medals in total, including team and ball golds.

That gave Azerbaijan eight rhythmic medals for the weekend and Durunda is hoping that her 16-year-old compatriot can help keep the country near the top of the sport.

"It was great that when I made mistakes she (Piriyeva) was able to do well and get medals. It's good for Azerbaijan," she added.

"I think that I can do even better, but I will try to be 100% in Budapest."

Four wins out of five events represented an excellent return for the home nation, but head coach Mariana Vasileva felt as though it could have been a clean sweep.

Uzbek Anastasiya Serdyukova claimed gold in the clubs, although Piriyeva had been set to challenge her score before a costly late drop that left her without the apparatus at the end of the routine.

"Every time it can be better," the Bulgarian said.

"I think she was nervous because she knew she was doing a good job. And sometimes the athletes think that they've finished, but that's not true until you leave the carpet.

"But she's young and she needs to learn and get more experience."

With eight-time world championship medallist Aliya Garayeva having retired five years ago, Azerbaijan have been looking for their next real challenger to the all-powerful Russians.

And Vasileva is confident that she may have two possible major-championship medal winners at her disposal. 

"Actually this score (Durunda's hoop score of 17.600) at the moment would probably take a medal in the Europeans, but you never know what will happen in a week's time," Vasileva beamed.

"It's very good when you have two good gymnasts. They push each other, but they need more work and to be more stable."

© AFP Services

Official Partners
Official Supporters