Baku, June 15, AZERTAC
Azerbaijan, the first host nation of the European Games, currently sits ahead of the traditional European sporting powerhouses at the top of the Baku 2015 medal table, with six golds and 13 total medals (ahead of Russia's haul of nine overall).
With the programme at Baku 2015 emphasising combat events in terms of total medals awarded, especially at this early stage of the competition, it is perhaps not surprising to see the likes of Russia and Turkey at the top end of the medal table (with six and four golds, respectively). For Azerbaijan, a nation of fewer than 10 million, however, it is a remarkable achievement to be sitting ahead of these countries.
This early success has captured the imagination of the Azerbaijani public, with sell-out crowds attending many events. Water Polo and Karate tickets were sold out for Sunday's events. So far, 200 of the 281 sport sessions of the Games are sold out, and sales continued at a brisk pace on Monday morning.
This strong home support may well sustain Azerbaijan's medal challenge, with athletes including Karate gold medallist Irina Zaretska visibly lifted by the cheers of the local crowd.
Triathlon bronze medallist Rostyslav Pevtsov has also shown that the host county's athletes can deliver in other sports, so there is every chance that Azerbaijan will continue to punch above its weight for the remainder of the Games.
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