Turkmen 3x3 Basketball team will settle for nothing less than gold
As 3x3 Basketball continues to make its astonishing rise from the streets to the Olympics, all eyes will be on Ashgabat 2017 to see the continent’s best square off over seven days of exhilarating action.
The small-sided version of the game has become a global phenomenon and has been included on the programme for the next Olympic Games in 2020 for the first time.
The 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games represents another giant step towards mainstream sporting acceptance and follows its last appearance at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Turkmenistan will compete in both the men’s and women’s events with eight players named in the men’s squad — Toyly Bayryyew, Aleksandr Paskov, Merdan Hojamedow, Maksim Otbozin, Pawel Aweryanow, Rustam Bagsyyew, Atamyrat Caryyew and Sapaly Zayirow.
Tall and possessing a strong personality, Bayriyev is the team’s clear leader. Yet, had he followed in his father’s footsteps, he would not have ended up anywhere near a basketball court.
“My father was a Swimming and Water Polo coach,” he said. “I began my sporting life as a Swimmer and also tried my hand at Karate. For more than 12 years, I divided my attention between the two disciplines and used to play Basketball only during my spare time.
“Eventually, I reached a point in life where I had to decide on one sport to take up seriously. To everyone’s surprise, I stuck with Basketball. But for me, it wasn’t unnatural as I had come to enjoy the game immensely,” said the 33-year-old, who plies his trade as a guard with Turkmen club side Belent.
Pashkov, 32, explained that whilst he too was a gifted multi-sportsman, his growth spurt as a youngster made his main sporting pursuit a lot easier to decide.
“I started taking sports seriously at the age of 10,” he said. “For many years, I used to push myself hard in three sports — Football, Swimming and Basketball. But as I grew older, I realised I couldn’t excel in all three and made a decision to follow Basketball. It wasn’t a hard decision to make because I was already much taller than my classmates and loved the game.”
The team recently bonded at a training camp in Poland where Hojamedov felt the players came together well and set out their final preparations for September.
“We played quite a lot of matches during our recent training camp in Poland. It helped us assess ourselves and get an idea of where we are at physically. I’m quite happy with how we did. All of us are in great physical shape. We can’t wait for Ashgabat 2017 to begin in September,” the talented centre said.
The opportunity to play such a big tournament in front of home fans is a dream come true for the players and Hojamedov believes the crowd’s support could make a big difference.
“Most of us have competed in FIBA’s 3x3 Basketball tournaments in Holland, France, Italy and Turkey. These big match experiences are going to stand us in good stead at home. More than anything, we’re going to enjoy the home crowd support. It’ll add to our sense of purpose,” he said.
Despite the added pressure of expectation, Bayriyev had little doubt that they would end up on the podium.
“It’s going to be a tough competition, but we’re going to fight like we’ve never done before. Playing at home is special. I’m very optimistic we can win a medal here,” said Bayriyev, who was a member of the Turkmen team that recently went down fighting to Qatar in the semi-final of the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.
But while Bayriyev was talking of winning generic medals, Pashkov said they would be settling for nothing less than gold.
“Qatar, China and the Philippines are all going to be really strong opponents. But we’re very motivated to win the gold medal. We’ve trained for it and we’re ready for it,” he said.
The 3x3 Basketball matches will be played at the 3x3 Basketball Arena from 18–24 September.
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