Photo finish: First European Games action-packed success
The inaugural competition brought together talented young athletes from across Europe and the Mediterranean – and what a show it was!
In a dizzy of camera flashes and gold, silver and bronze medals, the inaugural European Games gave the world an epic conclusion this weekend.
Traditional Olympic sports met with more unusual newcomers for two weeks of nail-biting entertainment – and picture-perfect scenes.
Each country competing excelled in its own arena, with Russia taking home the most gold medals at a whopping 79! In total, Russia took home more than 100 medals while hosting-country Azerbaijan and Great Britain trailed at 56 total and 47 total, respectively.
A fast-paced thrill in the form of 3x3 Basketball had onlookers on the edge of their seats for the single, 10-minute period game. This version of basketball takes place on only half the court and the first team to reach 21 points wins.
The long jump competition has been around since the ancient Olympics. Competitors sprint down a runway and jump off a board as far as they can, making their landing in the sand.
Yes, your favorite rec room game is also a competitive sport! Indeed, competitive table tennis has much more to it than you might think. Players must serve successfully, track the number of bounces and pay close attention to where the ball lands, all within a single second! Germany and the Netherlands strutted their ping-pong stuff and took home the gold (two for Germany, one for Netherlands) and silver (two for Netherlands) medals.
Mikhail Melnik and Dmitry Ushakov of Russia jump in sync during the synchronized trampoline final. Russia took home all the gold medals for the trampoline competitions. (Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC)
One of the most amusing sports to watch – and fun to photograph! – is synchronized trampolining. Two acrobats on adjacent trampolines must not only perfect their performance, but do it in sync! With a variety of jumps and air-bound "moves," these are not your typical backyard routines.
Llorenc Gomez of Spain and Norbert Sebestyen of Hungary vie for the ball. Of all competing countries, Russia (gold), Italy (silver) and Portugal (bronze) performed the best. (Photo: Harry Engels/Getty Images for BEGOC)
From the shore of São Paulo to the sandy courts in Baku, beach soccer has dribbled its way into major competitions across the globe. A different style of play full of improvisation, beach soccer takes place on a smaller field so that players can score from essentially anywhere within bounds, making for quite the high-scoring game. No shoes allowed!
Another interesting summer sport, water polo takes place in a 6-foot-deep pool. Players are identified by the colors of their caps and must simultaneously tread water and throw the ball with only one hand. Talk about multitasking! Russia and Serbia took home the gold for women's and men's competitions, respectively.
Lianne Tan of Belgium competes against Line Kjaersfeldt of Denmark in the Badminton Women's Singles Final. Denmark outperformed the other countries, taking home three gold medals, one silver and one bronze. (Photo: Robert Prezioso/Getty Images for BEGOC)
Developed in the mid-19th century, badminton took on an exciting and modern vibe at the European Games. As the players bump the shuttlecock in the air, it seems to float gracefully over the net and onto the opponent's side of the court.
Ido Herpe of Israel and Yannick Borel of France compete in the Men's Individual Epee pool match. France ended up completing in third place, with two golds, a silver and three bronzes. Italy took the lead with 12 medals total, three of which were gold. (Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
Fencing has been in every official Olympic Games, so it's no surprise that it appeared at the European Games as well. An intriguing dance of lunges, parries and feints, this classic art of swordplay is mesmerizing to watch.
The polar opposite of Limbo, the high jump competition requires athletes to jump over a bar without knocking it out of place. Competitors run and jump head first, with their backs to the bar, like a fish out of water, and land on their backs on a cushion.
Known as "self defense without weapons," Sambo is a cross between wrestling and Judo. Sambo can be combat-oriented or focused mainly on submission holds. Developed in Russia, it's no surprise Russia earned first place with five gold medals, as well as three bronze.
Victoria Veinberg Filanovsky of Israel makes a leap with hoop in hand during the Women's Rhythmic Gymnastics All-Around Individual Final. Israel earned four medals overall for Women's Rhythmic Gymnastics, two silver and two bronze. (Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
Rhythmic gymnastics comes in many forms, from graceful ribbons to twirling clubs and even dazzling hula hoops. It's not your typical waist-twirling show, but rather a creative hybrid of flexibility, strength, dexterity and endurance.
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