New generation of Azerbaijani gymnasts aiming for the Olympics

Last week the Azerbaijani Gymnastics Federation held the national artistic gymnastics championships in various age groups. When they posted photos of the little gymnasts on their Facebook page, one photo immediately captured people’s attention.


The girl in the picture has the coolest hairdo with the Olympic rings shaved on the side of her head.

Meet Nezrin Humbetova, an 8-year-old from Azerbaijan who dreams of competing at the Olympics. Nezrin started doing artistic gymnastics when she was 4, as she says, to “become stronger because this sport has a lot of strength exercises”. Her big goal is to represent Azerbaijan at international competitions but she has smaller goals, too, for example, she wants to learn how to do cartwheel aerials and kip-ups. This is the second year in a row she places second at Nationals in her age group. She says Marina Nekrasova and Yulia Inshina, current gymnasts representing Azerbaijan, are her gymnastics icons. Nezrin was born in 2009, so if she gets to the international elite level, she will be age-eligible for the 2028 Olympic Games.


For many years Azerbaijan didn’t really have an artistic gymnastics program, especially on the women’s side. When the AGF recruited foreign athletes and coaches (mainly from Russia and Ukraine) they explicitly said that the main goal was to raise a new generation of local gymnasts who would be able to represent Azerbaijan internationally in the future. To this end, they not only built new gyms and started new gymnastics clubs, but also organized multiple international and local competitions. In a recent interview to “Vesti Kavkaza”, Natalia Bulanova who was in charge of the last week’s Nationals said that they use competitions as an opportunity to attract and educate spectators about gymnastics: “When a person from outside comes to a gymnastics competition, they don’t understand what is happening. That’s why we are showing and the announcer is explaining what various elements are called, how are they performed and how are they judged, so that people would understand it and recognize elements during competitions. Interest comes with understanding. Spectators need to understand what gymnasts are doing, and if we manage to do that, everything’s going to be great”. In the same interview, Nina Pravdina, the head coach of the WAG team, said that they are actively recruiting young girls to start gymnastics. Looks like their efforts are starting to pay off.


Photo and the quotes from Nezrin Humbetova are courtesy of the Azerbaijani Gymnastics Federation.

You can see Nezrin doing bars and beam at the Nationals:


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