Baku 2015: Ones to Watch

Baku 2015: Ones to Watch

28 June 2015 / 10:48

While there were a host of established names on show in Baku the European Games also gave Team GB’s rising stars the chance to shine. With an array of impressive performances on display we have picked out just some of the ones to watch out for in the future.

Qais Ashfaq: Boxing

By his own standards Qais Ashfaq underachieved in Baku but believes he will come back stronger than ever when he next pulls on the Team GB jersey.

However, while he might not be satisfied with his performance, the 22-year-old produced some solid displays to earn himself bronze in the men’s bantamweight division.

Ashfaq won silver at Glasgow 2014 but couldn’t quite navigate his way past Dzmitry Asanau in the semi-finals in Azerbaijan.

But with every competition that passes he says he is improving and is confident of taking gold in Rio.

Hannah Baughn and Ryan Bartlett: Acrobatic Gymnastics

Mixed pair Hannah Baughn and Ryan Bartlett were the standout performers in the acrobatic gymnastics as they combined for a trio of bronze medals.

Baughn, 14, and Bartlett, 18, were in fine form as they opened their account with bronze in the all around final.

But they weren’t finished there and followed that with stellar performances in the balance and dynamic finals to make sure they left with medals in every event they competed in.

Gordon Benson: Triathlon

There is very little need to remind the world that Britain has the finest triathletes on the planet but 21-year-old Gordon Benson did so anyway in Baku.

The European under-23 champion picked up the mantle so often carried by the Brownlee brothers as he saw off the European Games field by more than ten seconds to take gold.

Benson finished in 1:48.31 to take victory ahead of Portugal’s Joao Silva and can have no finer role models as he looks to climb the ranks than fellow Leeds athletes Alistair and Jonathan.

Brinn Bevan: Artistic Gymnastics

For Brinn Bevan Baku was a chance to compete against some of his idols and yielded not only a bronze medal, but vital lessons as he looks to mix it with the best.

The 18-year-old took pommel horse bronze behind Saso Bertoncelj and Oleg Stepko but had a tricky time of it in the men’s all-around final.

After an unlucky landing from the rings and falling off the high bar twice Bevan finished down in 14th but he says the experience will serve him well as he looks to move forward in his fledgling career.

“It was a great experience being out there with more experienced gymnasts and the bigger names,” he said.

“It wasn't one of my best competitions but it was a big step in the right direction.” 

James Heatley: Diving

Diver James Heatly surprised himself when as he brought the curtain down on his European Games with 3m springboard gold – his third medal of the competition.

Bronze in the 1m springboard final got things going for Heatly and it got better and better as he clinched synchronised 3m springboard silver before his golden performance.

While all eyes will be on Jack Laugher at this year’s World Championships, Heatly is certainly one who could be making a splash on the biggest stage in the near future.

“I didn’t think I was going to win anything,” he said. “I’m over the moon to win three medals, especially as I didn’t expect it.”

Amber Hill: Shooting

Women’s skeet shooter Amber Hill showed that she has nerves of steel as she produced a stunning performance to take gold in a dramatic final against Italy’s Diana Bacosi.

The Italian may be 14 years her senior but Hill, 17, matched her stride-for-stride to show that she has the potential to go all the way.

An astonishing final saw the Italian hit 75 out of 75 targets but Hill, shooting second throughout, remained unfazed and forced a shoot off.

Hill then held her nerve as Bacosi missed her 30th clay and the youngster was crowned champion and sealed qualification for the Olympic Games in Rio.

Josh Kelly: Boxing

Like Ashfaq, Josh Kelly went to Baku looking for gold but had to settle for bronze.

On the way however, the 21-year-old came up against some of the continent’s most experienced fighters.

Kelly had a solid victory over Irish Olympian Adam Nolan to show that he was capable of mixing it with those that had been there and done it.

A tough semi-final bout with home fighter Parviz Baghirov was a bridge too far for Kelly in the end but he is sure to come back stronger on the road to Rio and has all the ability to box his way into contention.

Matty Lee: Diving

Team GB’s diving strength was on full display in Baku and there was gold for 17-year-old Matty Lee who stormed to victory in the men’s platform.

Lee racked up and impressive 588.25 on his way to gold and held off the challenge from Russia’s Nikita Shleikher and France’s Alexis Jandard.

The Leeds diver has already showed his prowess at European Junior level in the past as he came into the competition as a two-time champion and delivered once again to add a third title to his name.

Charlie Maddock: Taekwondo

It’s been a fine year for British women’s taekwondo and 19-year-old Charlie Maddock showed she is every inch a part of the current crop of stars.

Olympic champion Jade Jones is in great form and Bianca Walkden was crowned world champion in May but Maddock is keeping pace with the duo after being crowned Commonwealth champion in 2014 and taking gold in Baku.

Maddock scored a 10-9 golden point victory over Tijana Bogdanovic in her gold-medal match and will be hoping to do enough over the coming months to show that she should be on the plane to Rio.

Sandy Ryan: Boxing

At just 21 Sandy Ryan is one of the top ranked light welterweights on the planet and took a world silver medal in 2014.

Bronze in Baku further cements her status as one of Team GB’s bright stars and a potential medal winner in Rio next year.

Ryan came through her opening two bouts in convincing fashion as she saw off Germany’s Cindy Rogge and Azerbaijan’s Elena Vystropova before coming unstuck against Anastasiia Beliakova.

But she knows that defeat brings lessons with it and she is determined to improve as she looks ahead to Rio.

“Every fight is a learning curve and I’ve got a bronze but I wanted more than that,” she said. “I’m happy but I came for the gold but it just wasn’t my day.”

Duncan Scott: Swimming

With six European Games medals to his name swimmer 18-year-old Duncan Scott had a fruitful expedition to Azerbaijan.

The Alloa youngster collected gold medals in the 100m and 200m freestyle as well as the 4x100m freestyle relay and took three further relay silvers to add to his collection.

Scott is making quite the name for himself and has picked up from where he left off after a strong 2014 that saw him represent Team GB at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing as well as representing Scotland in the Commonwealth Games.

“It’s been a great week,” said the youngster after claiming his sixth medal. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I have to say thanks to all the really teammates that I’ve been racing with because I have got two individual golds but I wouldn’t have the medal count that I do if it wasn’t for them.”

Lois Toulson: Diving

At 15 Lois Toulson was one of the team’s youngest competitors but she showed all the experience of a seasoned athlete to take gold in the women’s platform.

It has already been a brilliant year for Toulson who became a national champion for the first time when she took platform victory at the British Diving Championships in Plymouth.

More gold to her name can only serve to spur on the youngster who is looking like she has all the tools to succeed at the highest level with the temperament to match.

“I don’t like to concentrate on other people and what they’re doing so I just focus on myself and try not to get distracted,” said Touslon after claiming victory.

Abbie Wood: Swimming

While Scott led the medal count for the men in the pool Abbie Wood was also in fine form as the she picked up four medals.

The 400m individual medley was her main target heading to Baku and she kicked off her competition with a bang by taking gold in the event early in the week.

That was followed by silver in the mixed 4x100m medley relay, bronze in women’s race and in the 200m individual medley.

At just 16 Rio might have come a bit too soon for Wood but there is no doubt that she could have a big impact at Tokyo 2020.

© Sportsbeat 2015