Turkmen team with a weight on their shoulders
When Turkmenistan proudly hosts the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games from 17–27 September it will be showcasing its sporting passion to the world like never before.
With glittering new sporting venues and thousands of volunteers trained and ready to welcome 65 delegations to its capital city Ashgabat, the spotlight will be on the Central Asian host’s progress in promoting sport to both Turkmen men and women.
And nowhere will this progress be better highlighted than the nation’s Weighlifting team which includes more women than male members.
In a sport that has been traditionally male dominated and requires tremendous muscle power, seven of the 13-member national team are women. And going by their confidence levels ahead of the competition later this month, they are keen to make a statement at home.
Sangiza Bahtyyarowa, who just turned 16, is the team’s youngest member but is one of the most confident. The Grade Nine student will compete in the 90kg weight category and is determined to make her home fans happy.
“I took part in the 2017 World Youth Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this year and competed in the Asian Senior Championships at home, held as part of the Inspiring Ashgabat Test Event Series. Although I failed to medal, I’m a lot more confident now. With my friends and family rooting for me, I’m super confident of a much improved show,” said Sangiza, who took up the sport three years ago.
At 24, Kristina Sermetowa is the oldest female in the team. The former dancer gave in to her father’s gentle persuasion by taking up Weightlifting.
“I’ve been a weightlifter for 10 years now. In fact, I’m the first Turkmen woman to have represented my country at a major international event — the 2012 Asian Championships in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. My aim is to do well at Ashgabat 2017 and use it as a launchpad for my qualification journey of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Becoming an Olympian is my ultimate dream,” she said.
She spoke about her introduction into the sport.
“People don’t believe me when they hear I used to be a dancer. Even for me, the change was quite unexpected. Several years ago, when my father’s friend opened a Weightlifting school, my father insisted I should sign up too. I wasn’t too keen initially, but eventually gave in to his persuasion. I haven’t had reasons to ever regret that decision,” she said.
Among the men, Tolkunbek Hudaybergenow is easily the oldest and most experienced. The 31 year old, who will take part in the 65kg event, has been active in the sport since 1999.
“I’ve been a part of all World Championships organised by the International Weightlifting Federation since 2003. I also took part in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Having so much experience to back me up, I feel I’m ready for Ashgabat 2017. I’ve been training hard and will fight for a medal here,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sohrat Hojamuradow has a very personal reason to do well in Ashgabat.
“My father Toremurad is a former Weightlifter and I followed in his footsteps. He’s still very passionate about the sport and regularly watches me train. Whenever there’s a competition in Turkmenistan, he’ll be present to see me compete. But he’s never watched me at an international event before. Ashgabat 2017 will be the first occasion he’ll be doing so. I want it to be a memorable event for him as well,” he said.
At 29, Omarguly Handurdyyew also has plenty of international experience and is a serious medal prospect in the 62kg weight.
“I’ve been a Weightlifter for 13 years and a promising Greco-Roman Wrestler for four years before that. After suffering from an allergic infection, doctors advised me to give up Wrestling. Being a sportsman, I didn’t want to leave the field completely. So I zeroed in on Weightlifting and have been here ever since,” said Omarguly, who won gold in the Clean and Jerk and bronze in Overall at the 2011 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan.
The national team’s Turkish coach, Jafer Topcu, has targeted two medals at Ashgabat 2017.
“Although I’ve been with them for only seven months, I’m confident we can take at least one medal each in the men’s and women’s sections. We attended two training camps, one in Kazakhstan and another in Awaza, Turkmenistan. It’s helped them a lot. The team is ready and raring to go,” he said.
Weightlifting competitions at the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games will be held at the Weightlifting Arena in the Ashgabat Olympic Complex between 18–25 September.
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