Turkmen sportsmen shine in overseas tournaments
With less than 60 days to go before the historic Ashgabat 2017 Games commence in the capital city, Turkmen sportsmen have already warmed up nicely in various regional and international championships.
Set to take place from September 17 to 27, the fifth edition of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, Ashgabat 2017, will be the first international multi-sport event hosted by Turkmenistan. The organisers have proved their readiness to host a world-class occurrence with test events and trials. Taking centre stage in the Games will be sportsmen from over 60 different jurisdictions, and the elite athletes from the home country are prepared to take on the best in their respective disciplines.
Long before the Games are scheduled to open in September, Turkmen sportsmen have already laid down competitive markers in various occasions.
Earlier in April, for example, Rio 2016 Olympics flagbearer Merdan Atayev won the country’s first gold medal at the Central Asian Short Course Swimming Tournament in Ashgabat. The iconic swimmer touched home first in his specialty, the 100-metre Backstroke, breaking the national record time at 54.89.
“I am sure I can further progress,” said Atayev in the full-to-capacity Ashgabat Olympic Complex Aquatics Centre. “Our President has provided us with excellent facilities. You may only benefit by training and competing in an arena like this.”
One month later, Atayev added another silver medal to his collection at the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games, when he finished second in the Men’s 50-metre Backstroke. Home fans will surely cheer him on in the more competitive setting of Ashgabat 2017.
Last month in Taipei, Seydilla Tazayev also made history at the Junior Asian Wrestling Championships, winning Turkmenistan’s first continental gold medal since 1997, and its first-ever gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling at this level. At the young age of 17, Tazayev is one of the main contenders for a position on the national team to compete in Ashgabat 2017.
Meanwhile, Turkmenistan’s Sambo wrestlers have played a significant prelude to the Games by winning an impressive five gold, six silver and 11 bronze medals at the Asian Sambo Championships, held in Tashkent in Uzbekistan. Lyale Nuryyeva won the country’s first gold on Day 1 of the three-day event, in the women’s 72kg class.
The tournament took place alongside the Asian Youth and Junior Championships, during which Turkmenistan won a further 2 gold, 9 silver, and 6 bronze medals.
Sambo-wrestling is a newly added event in the programme of Ashgabat 2017. The current achievement of Turkmen sportsmen strongly reflects their potential for the Games in September.
Another highly anticipated event for the home crowd of Turkmenistan is Equestrian Jumping. Earlier this month, five equestrian jumpers were selected to represent the country at the Games. They each come with interesting stories.
At 32, Ezber Babalyev is one of Turkmenistan’s most experienced jumpers. The former horse racer said he was enjoying Equestrian Jumping immensely.
“Until 2006, I raced horses. Then I felt I needed a change of scene, but didn’t want to get too far away from horses either, so I shifted to jumping. It’s a decision I never regretted and I’ve come to enjoy this sport immensely,” he said during a training session at the International Akhalteke Equestrian Complex.
For Fagilya Zaripova, the journey into the world of Equestrian Jumping was even more a drama.
“Until the end of 2005, I was working in a porcelain factory near the Akhalteke Equestrian Complex,” she remembers. “One day, I happened to see some equestrian athletes sitting with their beautiful horses, training at the Centre. I gathered my courage, walked up to them and asked to join the team.” From there, like all accomplished athletes, Zaripova worked long and hard and soon she found herself as a crucial part of the team.
Zaripova wanted to give something back to the sport. “This sport and this country have given me so much. Now I want to repay them and the best way to do it is to win a medal at Ashgabat 2017. I think I’m ready.”
Begli Garajayev, the most senior member of the team, said that the team has been busy preparing for Ashgabat 2017, with training camps in various European countries.
“We took part in several training camps in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. We also competed in quite a few local events while there. I think we’re now well prepared for the Asian Games challenge.”
At 22, Nikolay Beglaryan is the team’s youngest jumper. He is confident that the Turkmen team will perform strongly in front of the home fans in September, but stresses that competition from other countries cannot be underestimated.
“Riders from the Middle East, especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will be our toughest opponents. Then again, we’ll have a huge home advantage and we’ll play to our strengths. I’m confident we can put up a strong show.”
The home athletes will give their best to clinch one of the 2,000 medals that will be produced for the Games this year. Each will be uniquely crafted in a process which goes from raw materials to packaging in a time of six hours.
Designed in the form of an eight pointed Oguz Khan Star— the national emblem of the host nation - the gold, silver and bronze medals have been described as a “lasting legacy of the event’s hospitality received in true Turkmen style”.
The intricate design incorporates other symbolic iconography from the Turkmen tradition. Olive branches, an ancient symbol for peace, emphasise the country’s neutrality status and its commitment to peaceful development of international relations. The five traditional carpet motifs represent the provinces of the country and the traditionally warm Turkmen hospitality.
Finally, the crescent moon is a recognised symbol shown on the Turkmenistan national flag that represents inspiration, while the star is the symbol of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) which represents welcoming countries to Turkmenistan and is a symbol of friendship.
From September 17 to 27, thousands of athletes will compete for a total of 341 gold medals in the capital city of Turkmenistan. Seeing the continent’s 45 National Olympic Committees and the 17 from Oceania all coming together for this major sports event, sports fans can be assured that the latest edition of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games will be the biggest and most successful ever held.