Tofig Heydarov: İn Azerbaijan, Weightlifting sport is in the development stage


The fast-growing Azerbaijan in recent years has been recognized as a sporting state in the world owing to its achievements in all areas, including sports. Along with the achievements in the Olympic Games, World and European championships, and other prestigious tournaments in the last few years, the hosting of Azerbaijan to the most prestigious international competitions highlights the high organizational capability of our country.
One of the fastest growing sports in our country is weightlifting. In recent years, in Azerbaijan, consistent measures are conducted, uninterrupted competitions are organized, new sports complexes and halls are put into operation to develop this sport and increase the mass.
First vice-president of Azerbaijan Weightlifting Federation (AZE WF), President of “Zirve” International Sport Clubs-Tofig Heydarov gave an interview to the AZERTAG officer on the development and prospects of this sport in our country.
We present an interview.
– How do you evaluate the development of weightlifting in Azerbaijan?
– Today, weightlifting sport is in the development stage in Azerbaijan. Last year, President of the International Weightlifting Federation and the representatives from about 50 national federations were in our country in connection with the IV Islamic Solidarity Games. During the visit, they were closely acquainted with the development of this kind of sport, the conditions created at the Weightlifting Academy, in Shuvelan and at the “AAAF Park” training base. It is gratifying that, General Secretary of the International Federation noted in his speech that our country is the world weightlifting center. After the “Baku-2017”, national teams of many countries came to Azerbaijan for a training camp. Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian team completed the preparatory process and returned. In the next few days, the Algeria team will come to the training-camp in our country. By the end of the year, several Arab countries will be in Baku. This tells us about the development of weightlifting in our country and the conditions created.
At present, we have a strong team consists of youth. Last year, our athletes were champion in the medal account in European Championship in Prishtina, Kosovo. Our team was in the top ten in the World Youth Championship in Bangkok, Thailand. They also received a license for the Youth Olympic Games to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina this year. Due to the doping scandals, there was a little weakness in our national senior team. But our juniors make us happy. We want to fill this gap in a short time.
We have a high level of logistics in the regions. Recently, the opening of the Weightlifting Centers in Baku and Sumgait was held. Halls have been built in more than 20 villages and districts. If you take a look, you will see that athletes from the regions make us happier with their successes. Taking into account this, as a federation, we continue to build halls in the villages. We organize many competitions throughout the year. During these competitions, we choose children for the weightlifting class of “Zirve” lyceum. No such conditions have been created for athletes in any country of the world. We are working hard to increase the number of these classes in the future. All conditions have been created for the children who are educated here. All are the result of state care to sport in our country. In the early years of our independence, there was no small hall for training. It was a very difficult situation. After the national leader Heydar Aliyev met with us and took care of the sport, the conditions changed completely. In 1997, after Ilham Aliyev was elected President of the National Olympic Committee, a new stage in the development of weightlifting opened in Azerbaijan.
– Are our weightlifters will participate at the III Youth Olympic Games?
– Our national team won a license to the Olympics taking the 9th place in the team account in the world championship. On July, national women team will take part in the European Championship in Italy. Our team has a chance to win another license. At present, we have a license for boys in weightlifting sport. Four athletes are pretentious to this place. After Azerbaijan and European Championships have ended, we will clarify what athlete will represent our country in the Olympics. I hope our athlete will perform successfully in Buenos Aires and will be among the prize winners. Our women national team has just been created. We had great hope for Sabina Azimova. She, as a three-time European champion, already competes among youth.
– What can you say about the preparation of our weightlifters to the upcoming competitions?
– Our main goal is to prepare for the III Youth Olympic Games. At the same time, the collection of points to win a license for the Tokyo-2020 Summer Olympic Games has been launched this year. The national senior team is preparing to these competitions very seriously. Our team will consist of youth and juniors. We also try that they could reach a medal level. Annual training-camps are held for our national team. We are preparing very seriously because we have less time to the competitions.
– What steps are being taken towards popularization of this sport?
– We prefer mainly to develop the material and technical base in the regions. New halls are put into operation. Last year, almost most of the halls in our country were repaired at the expense of federation and new ones were put into operation. At present, we provide them with modern equipments. We try to have good conditions for athletes in our country. Zone (selection) competitions are organized for the second year. Competitions are held in three zones every two months. Young athletes are just selected from these competitions. Previously, 100-150 athletes took part in the Republic Championship, but in the final Zone competition about 500 athletes got on the platform. Fortunately, we have begun to reach mass. We have set a goal to reach the number of participants to thousand in the zone competitions in 2020.
Today, Azerbaijan Weightlifting Federation fights against doping. We always say that success can also be achieved without doping. There are enough talented athletes in this sport in Azerbaijan. Most importantly, we invite those children to the “Zirve” lyceum by choosing from the zone competitions. Members to national team are prepared so. Beforehand, weightlifting did not exist in Lerik. However, one of the candidates for the III Youth Olympic Games is from Lerik. Also, a new hall was opened recently in Piran village of Lerik. In Samukh, our base, meets international standards, operates. New halls are expected to open in Gakh, Zagatala, Gazakh and Gusar. Halls have been put into operation in five villages of Neftchala. From current year until today, three new halls have been opened. More than seven halls are expected to be launched by the end of the year. The federation has signed a contract with coaches and they have been paid monthly salary for each athlete.
– What can you say about the activity of “Zirve” international sport clubs (Zirve ISC)?
– “Zirve” ISC has 26 clubs in 12 countries. The main objective of the clubs is to develop the weightlifting in Azerbaijan and in the world. Last year, “Zirve” ISC X World Cup competitions were held in Moldova. There is a training base of Azerbaijan national team in Moldova. Last year, our national women team trained in Moldova.
There are already other types of sports in the club. It includes gymnastics, judo, karate, football and swimming. Annually, Zirve Games among youth are held dedicated to the memory of national leader Heydar Aliyev. About thousand athletes have participated in the Games this year. Today, the main place in the development of sports in our country should be taken by clubs. If the federation is engaged in the preparation of national teams’ members, our clubs should operate strenuously enough to give athletes a team. As a federation, we are taking the necessary steps to create new clubs. It seems that our club demonstrates Azerbaijan as a sporting country to the world. All national championships to be held this year will be dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Democratic Republic. As well as, “Zirve” will be 12 years old this year. The tournament will be organized on this occasion by the end of the year. And also, in one of the foreign countries, “Zirve” Cup will take place.
-What is the interest to weightlifting among women in our country?
– For the first time, Tarana Abbasova represented Azerbaijan at the Olympic Games. By the way, she is currently the head coach of national women team. Women’s competition in weightlifting started in the early 1990s. Our female athletes mostly represent regions. In the IV Islamic Solidarity Games, Sabina Azimova won a bronze medal despite being a youth. There is great hope for female athletes. True, it is not fair to expect a medal from them at the European Championship this year. The only legionary athlete in the national team is Boyanka Kostova. Her doping sentence expires. Our world champion will prepare for the Tokyo-2020 Summer Olympic Games. The main goal of the federation is to build a team without foreign athletes.