Indian athletes in awe of Ashgabat 2017
“I’ve not even seen this at the Olympics,” was the reaction of India’s Dutee Chand, who was the only sprinter from the nation to qualify for Rio, as she exited the 45,000 capacity Ashgabat Olympic Stadium after what could arguably be termed as one of the ‘greatest spectacles’ in recent sporting history.
With a wide grin on her face, she added, “Did you see the graphic design? The horse show by the President’s cavalry is something I’ve never seen in my entire life.”
Her enthusiasm wasn’t solely restricted to the Opening Ceremony. Athletes from across India, who have made the three-hour flight to Ashgabat, are in nothing but awe of the existing facilities.
World class recovery facilities
V Natarajan, who is seeded third in the men’s singles Indoor Tennis event, couldn’t speak highly enough about the facilities.
He said, “As an athlete, I cannot stress enough on the importance of having post-match saunas and ice baths. There are international level tournaments even now, where these services are not provided. From landing in Ashgabat to playing my first match, each and every need of mine was fulfilled even before I asked."
"That is something that takes you aback when it happens because you expect to ask someone for it. But here, it has all been taken care of. As an athlete, we have everything we need and even more. By far, this is the best event I’ve ever been to.”
India’s contingent of 201 athletes is spread across 11 sports and will be participating on every day of competition.
Cyclist Deborah Herold, who won silver in the women’s individual sprint, said, “ The Games Village is really something to have a look at. I’ve attended many a World Championship, but not seen anything like this. In many events, we have seen that outside the Velodrome, there are no practice areas. However, here it is not the case. I feel this venue is ready to host the Olympics.”
Others can take a 'cue'
And it’s not just the Olympic veterans, who are singing the praises of the facilities at the Village. World number two in women’s snooker, Vidya Viswanathan Pillai, is attending her first ever Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games and initially, was unsure about her visit to Ashgabat. But now, she has a changed perception.
She said, “I had never been to Turkmenistan before, so I was a bit wary. But from the moment I landed, I had a changed perception. I have attended multiple World Championships and Asian Games, but I have never seen the kind of hospitality here."
"The people are so warm and helpful, the facilities for Billiards players, like practice rooms, stick rooms are perfect," she added. "I think people can literally take a ‘cue’ from the organizers here on how to organise cue sports events. It seems like they brought in a cue sports expert to build the facility.”
From the youngest to the oldest, Indian athletes are amazed by the facilities provided by the country and want to come back again. Triple Jump gold medallist from Wednesday, Arpinder Singh wants to even return for training.
He said, “Normally, I’m not very comfortable indoor as my body tends to cool down very quickly. However, they have a temperature controlled practice area which really helped me. If they allow it, I would like to come back and train.”
With India not having a single indoor athletics facility, it seems they will be returning to Ashgabat with the widest of smiles. Meanwhile, the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games will continue through to the Closing Ceremony on September 27.