Turkmenistan's Women Wrestlers ready for Ashgabat 2017 challenge
While the men's national Wrestling team train on the mats at a gym in the suburbs of Ashgabat, the women’s team are pumping iron on the weight machines beside them as they enter the final days of preparation for the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, the biggest event of their lives.
The women are relatively inexperienced and some have only competed at the regional level, but they are not daunted by the task of trying to do their country proud at Ashgabat 2017 which gets underway with the Opening Ceremony on Sunday.
Nurjahan Altyyewa started the sport when she was just 12 years old.
“Wrestling was fashionable at the time,” said Nurjahan, who does embroidery to help her concentrate. “I'm the youngest of four kids and I was hyper as a child, always fidgeting, so my parents thought I should take up a sport.
“Wrestling has helped me to build confidence and to become physically stronger. It gives me great pride to compete for Turkmenistan.”
The women have also broken barriers in a sport that was generally thought of as 'men only' with Freestyle Wrestling opening up to women in recent years.
Teammate, Rozanna Kurambayeva, said she had her own reasons for getting into Wrestling.
“For me, Wrestling is not a male sport,” she said. “I want more girls to take up Wrestling to they can protect themselves.”
Despite being one of the oldest in the team, Yulduz Madyarowa said she is getting a little nervous about the competition.
“Half my street will watch me compete at the Games,” she said. “I'm doubly proud of that. It's an honour for me to compete for my country.”
When she is not training for Ashgabat 2017, Yulduz is helping her father to build a house.
“I'm a carpenter,” she said. “I am the oldest child in my family. My brothers and sisters see me as a role model. “
Olguljan Egemberdiyeva got into Wrestling after going to the gym to lose weight. The 19 year old, who turned out to be a natural, has set her Wrestling sights very high.
“My goal is the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020,” said Olguljan, whose sister Maksuda is on the Belt Wrestling team for the Games. “Since we started competing in 1991, there have been no Olympic medals for Turkmenistan. Everyone wants to win the first medal for the country.”
Jamilya Annumuradowa, who loves to bake different kinds of cakes to relax, is looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“It's a great joy to represent my country,” said Jamilya, who said her strict training regime has meant her not touching one of her cakes since July. “When I go out on the mat, I'll be a little nervous, but I know I will have a lot of support.”
And support this young women's team will no doubt get from the hometown fans.
The two-day Wrestling competition for both women and men will take place at the Main Indoor Arena from 24–26 September.
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