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The 7th European Artistic Gymnastics Championships started in Cluj-Napoca

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 The 7th European Artistic Gymnastics Championships are starting today at the Polyvalent Hall in the Romanian northwestern city of Cluj-Napoca, 60 years after Romania hosted the competition for the first time. Competing will be 274 gymnasts, 168 in men's events and 106 in women's events, hailing from 37 countries. 

The first major gymnastics competition in the new Olympic cycle will bring to Cluj-Napoca veterans and newbies alike as the European federations are preparing young contestants to run in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games. 

The line-up includes three Rio 2016 Olympic champions: Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece, the rings gold medallist; Oleg Vernyayev of Ukraine, the parallel bars gold medallist and Dutch Sanne Wevers, the women's beam gold medallist, alongside gymnasts vying for confirmation in senior competitions, including Diana Varinska (Ukraine), Elena Eremina (Russia), Frank Baines (UK), Martino Maggio (Italy), Lyn Genhart (Switzerland), Tomas Kuzmickas (Lithuania) and Rhys McClenaghan (Ireland). 

The format of the April 19-23 event is individual only, meaning neither the women's team, nor the men's team events will be held in Cluj-Napoca. Under the European Gymnastics Federation's rules, the team competitions are held every two years. 

After qualifying rounds, the best 24 gymnasts in each categories, limited to two per country, will be competing in the men's and women's all-around events to be held on Friday. Furthermore, the best eight contesters on each apparatus, also limited to two per country, will advance to the finals on Saturday and Sunday. 

Representing Romania at the championships in Cluj-Napoca will be 10 gymnasts: Olivia Cimpian, Ioana Crisan, Larisa Iordache and Catalina Ponor in the women's events, as well as Marian Dragulescu, Cristian Bataga, Vlad Cotuna, Adelin Kotrong, Laurentiu Nistor and Andrei Ursache in the men's events. 

The schedule comprises: Wednesday - men's qualifications; opening ceremony (10:00hrs-20:40hrs); Thursday - women's qualifications (10:00hrs-20:30hrs); Friday - men's all-around final (13:00hrs -15:45hrs), women's all-around final (17:30hrs-19:30hrs); Saturday - men's apparatus finals - floor, pommel horse and rings - women's apparatus finals - vault and uneven bars (13:30hrs-16:40hrs); Sunday - men's apparatus finals - vault, parallel bars and horizontal bars - women's apparatus finals - beam and floor (13:30hrs-16:40hrs). All times are Eastern European Summer Time. 

Watching the Romanian gymnasts compete from the bleachers will be Sonia Iovan, a guest of honour at the championships that mark the return of Europe's elite gymnasts to Romania after 60 years. At the first edition ever hosted by Romania, in 1958 in Bucharest, Iovan became one of Romania's first two European championship medallists. She won the beam silver and the bronze in the all-around and vault events. Besides Iovan, Elena Leusteanu won silver in the all-around, uneven bars and floor events. 

Also there will be Chairman of the International Gymnastics Federation Morinari Watanabe, who has accepted an invitation from the local organisation committee and the Romanian Gymnastics Federation.

Initially, Bucharest City was picked to host the 2017 Individual European Championships, but later on the competition was relocated to Cluj-Napoca as Bucharest City was unable to even start off construction on a new polyvalent hall. 

The most important gymnastics competition to be hosted by Romania since 1957 comes at a difficult time. Although gymnastics is the sport to have won Romania the largest tally of Olympic medals - 25 gold, 20 silver and 26 bronze medals - gymnastics achievements have worn thin over the past years. It all culminated with Romania's women's gymnastics team failing to qualify to the 2016 Rio Olympics, despite the team having competed in all the Olympics after the 1968 Ciudad de Mexico edition. 

In the 2016 European Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Bern, Romania won two silver medals, both by Marian Dragulescu (floor and vault), and two bronzes, both by Catalina Ponor (floor and beam).  

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