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Qatar Gymnastics Federation (QGF) President, Ali Al Hitmi( centre) addressing a press conference held at the Holiday Villa Hotel in Doha yesterday. Also present are Mohammed Al Mouraghi (left), Board Member, QGF, and Mohamed Al Jaber, Secretary General, QGF.PICTURE: QASSIM RAHMATULLAH
DOHA: Top Dutch gymnast Yuri van Gelder is set to return to Doha after a gap of five years to take part in the FIG World Challenge Cup to be held at Aspire Dome later this month.
Van Gelder, a former world champion on the rings, will join a host of top gymnasts including London Olympic Games star Krisztian Berki of Hungary, Brazil’s Arthur Zanneti and Larisa Andreea of Romania at the three-day event to be hosted by Qatar Gymnastics Federation (QGF) from March 27 to 29.
More than 150 gymnasts from 37 countries will take part in the event, Ali Al Hitmi, President, QGF, said at a press conference.
“The Doha leg of the World Challenge Cup has become a prestigious event for the gymnasts,” Al Hitmi said yesterday.
“The points accumulated by the gymnasts at World Challenge Cup series make the difference at the end of the year when only a select few make the cut for the World Championships.
“Similarly, those who do well in the World Championships eventually make it to the Olympic Games,” Al Hitmi said.
The QGF president said Qatar will be represented by four male athletes - Mahmoud Saadi, Nasser Al Hamad, Malik Al Yahri and Ahmed Dayyani and two female gymnasts - Shaden Wohdan and Al Jazi Al Habshi - at the event.
“For the first time, we will stage the floor exercises at this event which is now into its sixth edition,” Mohamed Al Jaber, Secretary General, QGF, said.
Al Hitmi said the Doha leg will be broadcast live by Al Kass Sports Channel with television signals set to be beamed in many countries.
“The Qatar Gymnastics Federation is proud to be hosting so many great gymnasts for this event,” Al Hitmi said. “With the attendance of more than 150 gymnasts from around 37 countries, once again, this big event will host the names that matter in gymnastics.
“I’m sure that fans will enjoy this world-class competition and encourage our national gymnasts and support them later this month,” he added.
Qatar’s Shaden, who won five medals at the Arab Games held in Doha in December 2011, said: “We are looking to gain experience from this event. I hope I can do a decent job. I will be competing in the balance beam competition.”
Van Gelder, also known as the ‘Lord of the Rings’, is a powerful performer with an impressive resume. The 19-year-old took the gold in the men’s rings at the 2005 European Championships held in Debrecen, Hungary.
He became world champion in the same discipline at the 2005 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne, Australia.
A year later, he won bronze at the 2006 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Aarhus, Denmark.
At the 2007 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, he won a silver medal.
Van Gelder will be joined by Berki, the pommel horse specialist, who sparkled at the London Olympic Games last year.
He is the 2012 Olympic Champion, the 2010 and 2011 World Champion, and the 2007 and 2009 world silver medalist. He is also the 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 European Champion in that event.
He won the Universiade 2009 in Belgrade. In 2010 and 2011 he was named Hungarian Sportsman of the Year.
He is currently rated as the best pommel horse worker of all time by the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG).
Prashanth Sellathurai of Australia will also compete in the pommel horse competitions, Al Hitmi said.
Sellathurai’s parents and ancestors are of Sri Lankan origin, but the gymnast was born and raised in Australia.
He was part of the Australian men’s squad which won its first team gold medal in Commonwealth Games at the 2010 event in New Delhi, which was sealed with his performance on the rings.
Sellathurai also won the pommel horse event in New Delhi.
He has three times won medals in the pommel horse at the world championships and is currently ranked third in the world.