Solidarity Games coming over Baku horizon

4 May 2017

Azerbaijan is almost ready for the Islamic Solidarity Games, with the first of the teams due to start arriving on Thursday.
The football competition gets underway next Monday, and Azerbaijan coach Yashar Vahabzade named his 23-man squad for the Group A games against Cameroon, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

The other side of the draw sees Palestine make another appearance at an international tournament, after their surprise qualification for the 2015 Asian Cup, alongside Oman, Algeria and Turkey.

In the previous two editions to have gone ahead, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia both topped the medals tables as the host nation, so the pressure is on Azerbaijan to deliver.

Former Mongolian champion Bazarragchaa Erdenebat was added to the women's judo team, along with her compatriots Munkhtsedev Ichinkhorloo and Purevsuren Buyankhishig, the team announced on Tuesday.

The biggest coup though was that of Ukrainian Iryna Kindzerska, who won bronze in the under-78kg category at the 2013 European championships and narrowly missed out on a medal at the London 2012 Olympics.

The combat sports will be key to their hopes of following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, with many foreign-born athletes harbouring real medal ambitions in judo, karate and wrestling, while the taekwondo team picked up eight medals at the Presidents Cup event in Athens last weekend.

The city itself also had a warm-up with the hosting of a rhythmic gymnastics World Cup event, although the home team did not fare as well as hoped with number one Marina Durunda not taking part.

The 19-year-old will return for the Solidarity Games though, and will compete for a possible four individual gold medals.

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