Once upon a time, the European Championships were only secondary in prestige to the Olympic Games and World Championships in the artistic gymnastics world. In fact, a popular myth went that if you won the European Championships, you were destined to Olympic glory. Lilia Podkopayeva, the 1995 champion from Ukraine, went on to win the 1996 Olympics, and even back in the ’70s, Romanian star Nadia Comaneci won the Montreal Olympics shortly after topping the standings at the European Championships.
Starting in the mid-aughties, however, the United States established itself as a gymnastics superpower, and soon after, the Chinese team also became a factor in competition. Thus, the “Europeans”, as they are more commonly called, quickly became an event that hardly anybody paid attention to, save for some die-hard gymnastics fans.
The current European Championships logo, via International Gymnast magazine
This year promises to be different. Fans are buzzing with excitement: Perhaps the Championship could even return to its former glory. The competition will be held from May 9-13 in Brussels, Belgium, and some of the biggest names in gymnastics are expected to make an appearance: Russians Aliya Mustafina, Viktoria Komova, Anastasia Grishina; and Romanians and Olympic gold medalists Sandra Izbasa and Catalina Ponor, as well as Romania’s newest star, Larisa Iordache.
Komova, Mustafina, and Izabasa are also coming back from serious injuries at this competition (a broken foot, an ACL tear, and an Achilles tendon tear, respectively), so fans are anticipating how the three gymnasts will fare during their return to competition.
In addition to Russia and Romania, two traditional gymnastics superpowers, other countries to compete include Spain, France, Sweden, Israel, Great Britain, Greece, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and many more. Brussels will also host the men’s European Championships, which, much like the women’s competition, have suffered a similar fate since the rise of the United States and China in the sport of gymnastics.