1st European Sports Aerobics Championships

NEC Birmingham 3rd - 5th December 1999

In direct response to the catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and requests from the UEG for a member federation to take over the organisation and planning of the 1st European Sports Aerobics Championships, British Gymnastics stepped into the breach offering their support and took over the mammoth task of hosting these Championships at the NEC in Birmingham.

Heathrow Sports Aerobics had five athletes taking part in these championships. They were Kelly Snape, Anoushka Mistry, Sarah Needham, Joanne Stevens and Natalia Ilienko-Jarvis.

Day One - Qualifying - Men's Individual, Mixed Pairs and Groups.

British hopes were pinned on the mixed pair Louise Russell and Spencer McGuinness, currently ranked 8th after the World Championships in Hannover last year. Competing in the qualification round alongside the British pair was four of the eight top placed pairs from the World Championships. Russell and McGuinness were fourth in the running order and entered the arena as the first British athletes of the competition. After an unexpectedly nervous start they settled into their routine qualifying in sixth place.

Next came the Group qualifying round and as a new discipline to Sports Aerobics there had never been a precedent set to form any opinion as to who would win. Eight countries fielded teams for this event and it was to be an open competition. Great Britain finished in fourth place with everything to go for in the Final.

Day Two - Qualification - Individual Women and Trios.

Great Britain's Natalia Ilienko-Jarvis & Joanne Stevens would be competing with the best in the individual women's section and each hoped to win through to the finals. After some amazing routines the final scores gave out the positions for the finals on Sunday. As only one entry is allowed from each country and the host nation has an automatic right to enter the finals, there was a lot of switching about needed in the final placing of the qualifiers. Joanne Stevens had made the finals narrowly beating fellow teammate Natalia by 0.10pts

The all action Trio's qualification round proved to be as inspiring as the group competition. Great Britain fielded the trio of Anoushka Mistry, Kelly Snape and Sarah Needham. With 16 trios fighting neck and neck for the eight places on day three Great Britain had a mammoth task ahead of them just to win through. Their challenge made even more difficult knowing that France, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria had all finished in the top Eight at the 1999 World Championships. After the qualification round had finished the following had made it through: Romania, France, Bulgaria, Hungary, Sweden, Germany, Great Britain and Slovenia had ensured their place in the finals.

Day Three - Finals Day

With all the preliminaries out of the way it was now down to some serious competition for the Group from Great Britain. Their dynamic routine performed to Ricky Martins "Livin la Vida Loca" proved a tremendous hit with the audience and laid down the gauntlet to others. Final results were: 1st Romania, 2nd Hungary, 3rd France, 4th Great Britain, 5th Italy, 6th Finland, 7th Germany.

The Mixed Pairs competition was as exhilarating as the groups. Great Britain had high hopes in the discipline and Louise Russell and Spencer McGuinness wanted to improve on their 6th place after the qualifications. Despite a few minor errors the British pair performed a dramatic and well-tuned routine to finish in 8th place.

Final placing for the Mixed Pairs competition were 1st Russia, 2nd France 2, 3rd Romania 2, 4th Portugal, 5th Spain, 6th Bulgaria 2, 7th Sweden, 8th Great Britain.

In the Individual Womens competition there was a World-Class line up with the current World Championship 2nd and 4th placed athletes. Nine athletes made up the finals with Joanne Stevens taking the final place as a member of the Host Nation Team. Joanne performed a well balanced and choreographed routine but disappointingly finished in 9th place. Joanne had been ill in the days leading up to the competition but struggled through to make the finals, showing that if 100% fit she will be a force to be reckoned with.

Final Placing 1st Giovanna Lecis (Italy), 2nd Izabela Lacatus (Romania), 3rd Ludmilla Kovatcheva (Bulgaria), 4th Caroline Maillot (France), 5th Sonia Anton (Spain), 6th Yayheniya Chychyra (Belarus), 7th Vilija Satkiene (Lithuania), 8th Janka Daubner (Germany) 9th Joanne Stevens (Great Britain).

In the Trio Finals power and strength proved to be the deciding factor as all male trios competed head to head with mixed and all female groups. The men dominated the competition showing the most difficult elements. The British Trio had demonstrated one of their best routines ever in the qualifiers; it was now time to do it again. The enthusiastic audience couldn't wait to see how the British athlete's would fair in this the final discipline of the Championships. The announcement made, the trio entered the arena and the crowd made sure that their welcome was one they wouldn't forget in a hurry. The performance was even better than in the earlier round. The anticipation grew as we waited for the scores and we found that the trio had moved up to fifth place overall beating former world medallists Sweden along the way!

Final Positions 1st Romania , 2nd France, 3rd Hungary , 4th Bulgaria 2, 5th Great Britain, 6th Sweden, 7th Germany , 8th Slovenia.

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Adapted from an original report by Allan Brotherston


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