Team GB’s athletes showed that they are among the best the continent has to offer at the European Games as the squad finished with 47 medals. There were 18 golds for Brits in Baku while Team GB also took ten silver medals and 19 bronzes.
And with Rio edging ever closer the performances of Team GB’s young athletes and seasoned veterans alike bode well for 2016.
While Britain’s senior divers prepare for the World Championships in Kazan, the country’s youngsters finished top of the pile in the Baku Aquatics Centre.
James Heatly took men’s 3m springboard gold while Matty Lee was the other individual men’s winner with platform victory.
Heatly finished the competition with three medals to his name after also claiming 1m springboard bronze and silver with Ross Haslam in the men’s synchronised 3m springboard.
In the women’s events there was two more gold medals for Team GB as Katherine Torrance delivered in the 3m springboard and Lois Toulson produced a stunning performance to win the platform.
Of Team GB’s 47 medals, 23 came for the country’s troop of exciting swimming talent.
The Russians were the dominant force in the pool but Britain showed that they have an abundance of talent as Duncan Scott took six medals – including gold in the men’s 200m freestyle with Cameron Kurle taking silver.
Luke Greenbank helped himself to double individual gold as he won in both the 100m and 200m backstroke finals.
There was more success in the women’s races as Holly Hibbot took top spot in the women’s 800m freestyle and Abbie Wood’s first of four medals came when she took gold in the 400m individual medley.
Aquatics: Synchronised Swimming
It was never going to be easy for Team GB’s synchronised swimming team but they made sure they gave a solid account of themselves as they progressed to the team final.
The ten-strong team eventually finished ninth with 144.6049 while the pairing of Jodie Cowie and Genevieve Randall finished 12th in their duet final.
And coach Karen Thorpe believes the hard work is starting to pay dividends for the duo.
“It makes the hard work worth it when they get the right score,” she said. “And that performance was a lot better. The girls would have felt that while in the water and they produced a good swim.”
Aquatics: Water Polo
It was a tough expedition for Team GB’s women’s water polo team but they signed off with their heads held high after beating Israel to secure 11th.
Defeat to Serbia left Nick Buller’s team in dire straits but they pulled back some pride with a 10-5 victory in their final outing.
And Buller believes that the European Games could prove vital in the team’s future development.
“It’s been fantastic for the girls to get this multi-sport experience,” he said.
“I think we’ve enjoyed and made the most of every moment, we’ve learnt a lot from being here, especially how to deal with pressure and that’s going to be hugely beneficial going forward.”
There were no medals for Team GB’s archers in Baku as a battle of Britain saw Nicky Hunt take on Naomi Folkard.
Hunt came out on top 6-0 in the 1/32 elimination battle but that was as far as she would go after Natalia Erdynieva ended the Briton’s competition in the next round.
Amy Oliver meanwhile came unstuck in her round of 32 match with Slovakia’s Alexandra Longova while the women didn’t fare much better in the team event where they lost to Georgia in the last 16.
And in the men’s event Kieran Slater made it to the last 16 but he lost 6-5 in a tense encounter with France’s Pierre Plihon.
Britain has long had a proud boxing history and Team GB’s athletes made sure they maintained that with five medals in Baku.
The standout performances came from Olympic champion Nicola Adams who took flyweight gold and Joe Joyce who was crowned super heavyweight champion.
But there were plenty more encouraging performances with Sandy Ryan winning bronze along with Qais Ashfaq and Josh Kelly.
And for Joyce the chance to add European Games gold to his Commonwealth title is one he won’t forget in a hurry.
“To have made history over the past two weeks as the first ever Super Heavyweight European Games Champion was a huge moment for me,” he said.
Lani Belcher and Ed McKeever were Team GB’s medal winners in the canoe sprint with the latter determined to improve ahead of this year’s World Championships.
Belcher, 26, took silver in the K1 5000m final on day four after McKeever had won bronze in the K1 200m.
But, despite being happy with his performance, Olympic champion McKeever is targeting improvements ahead of a busy 12 months.
“I’m very happy with my form over the weekend and looking forward to going home and getting some work done over the next eight weeks looking forward to the World Championships,” he said.
The men’s team foil quartet of Richard Kruse, Marcus Mepstead, Alex Tofalides and Ben Peggs were Team GB’s last competitors at Baku and they made sure to end on a high.
The team picked up gold in a back-and-forth final battle with Italy which they eventually won 45-41.
In the men’s sabre James Honeybone lost out in the last 16 while Aliya Itzkowitz couldn’t make it beyond the final 32 in the women’s event.
And in the women’s epee Corinna Lawrence was defeated by Giulia Rizzi of Italy 15-12 in her table of 16 match.
Hannah Baughn and Ryan Bartlett picked up a trio of bronze medals as they strutted their stuff in the acrobatic gymnastics.
The pair started with bronze in the all-around final and carried their fine form into the balance and dynamic disciplines.
Ryan Bartlett said: “For all the training we have done it is great to come back and get the medals. We’ve had a great experience.
“Coming out here and doing five routines, it has been the best experience of my life. To come third at a senior championship is pretty good to me.”
Aerobic gymnast Ella Augier was proud of her team despite the disappointment of narrowly missing out on a spot in the group finals.
Augier, Chloe Farrance, Olivia Farrance, Sophie Goves and Kayleigh Silva scored 19.161 to finish seventh – one spot behind sixth-placed qualifiers Italy who finished with 19.600.
However, while she was disappointed with the result she says the chance to represent Team GB was one that brought immense pride.
"We are very disappointed to just miss out on the final but also very proud to have represented Team GB and our sport,” Augier said.
“The experience in Baku has been incredible, the atmosphere in the arena was amazing and we will take so much from this experience."
If the European Games were a learning curve for anyone then Brinn Bevan was that person.
The 18-year-old made it to the final of the individual all-around as well as the pommel horse.
Bevan had a tough time in the all-around final as he landed poorly off the rings before falling from the high bar twice.
But he bounced back in style to claim Team GB’s only medal of the competition by scoring 14.200 on his way to pommel horse bronze.
The men’s team meanwhile finished down in eighth with the women’s team also finishing eighth and missing out on the podium places.
Kat Driscoll produced a brilliant individual performance to take silver on the trampoline.
The 29-year-old has plenty of experience under her belt with four world championship medals but none have come in the individual discipline.
But in Baku she produced the goods to see off the challenge of Belarus’ Hanna Harchonak and score 53.910 to secure second.
It was a tough old time for Team GB’s judokas in Baku with no medals to show for their endeavours in the Heydar Aliyev Arena.
There was disappointment for Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons as she couldn’t progress beyond the round of 16.
Natalie Powell came closest to a medal for the Brits as she came through her repechage with Hungary’s Abigel Joo.
That set up a bronze medal match with Solvenia’s Anamari Klementina Velensek but she lost out to a late ippon.
Youngster Amber Hill was the pick of the bunch in the shooting after she showed nerves of steel to edge out world number one Diana Bacosi to women’s skeet gold.
The Italian hit 75 out of 75 targets into the final, but Hill, shooting second throughout, was unfazed as she forced a shoot off with the pair missing just one clay each.
What followed was an astonishing test of nerve as both performed faultlessly until Bacosi missed her 30th clay and 17-year-old Hill took full advantage to claim Team GB’s fifth gold medal of the European Games.
“I’ve never known anything like it. She is an incredible shooter, she shot 75 out of 75 and to then do that in the final was incredible,” said Hill, who qualified for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio as a consequence of reaching the final.
It was a mixed bag for the country’s table tennis stars with Paul Drinkhall pushing all the way for a medal but Kelly Sibley unable to make a dent into the competition.
Drinkall managed to secure a bronze-medal match with Ukraine’s Lei Kou but eventually went down 4-2.
Earlier in the men’s singles Liam Pitchford had also shown good form to make it to the third round but was bested by Slovakia’s Wang Yang.
But for Sibley there was disappointment as she fell as the first hurdle and was knocked out 4-2 by Ruta Paskauskiene.
Jade Jones was always going to be the woman to beat in Baku and lived up to the hype by claiming the first-ever -57kg European Games gold.
Jones was not always at her best in Azerbaijan but she came through in the end to add another medal to her growing collection.
But Jones wasn’t the only woman to win gold as Charlie Maddock took -49kg victory, although there was disappointment for world champion Bianca Walkden who was knocked out in the quarter finals.
In the men’s event Lutalo Muhammad recovered sufficiently from knee surgery to take bronze at -80kg and stake his claim for a spot at Rio 2016.
It will always be a challenge for any British male triathlete to compete with the Brownlee brothers but Godron Benson’s gold showed that there is an abundance of strength in depth available to Team GB.
The under-23 European champion was by far and away the quickest in the men’s race as he clocked 1:48.31 to take victory ahead of Portugal’s Joao Silva by 11 seconds.
There were no medals however in the women’s race where Heather Sellars finished 15th.
Volleyball: Beach Volleyball
There was little to cheer for beach volleyball duo Chris Gregory and Jake Sheaf as they lost all three of their Pool G encounters.
The pair, both 25, started with a 2-0 defeat to Austria and that trend continued as they lost to Spain and Estonia.
Commonwealth medallist Chinu was left disappointed after he lost 4-0 to Ukraine’s Oleksandr Khotsianivyskyi.
Chinu was given a bye to the 1/8 finals but couldn’t progress any further and their was also disappointment for Yana Rattigan who was beaten by Ukranian Oleksandra Kogut 4-1 in her qualification bout.
Chinu said: “I could have done better, you can always do better. I want to thank British wrestling for giving me the opportunity and hopefully I can work hard and come back strong.”
© Sportsbeat 2015