Turkmen target Taekwondo medals at Ashgabat 2017
Turkmenistan’s Taekwondo team have clocked up the miles as they target three medals at the Ashgabat 2017 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games taking place in the Turkmenistan capital from 17–27 September.
The 14 members of the squad are now enjoying time at home following a gruelling schedule that included intensive training camps in Thailand and South Korea, as well as competing at the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships.
While no medals were secured by the five men and one woman who took part at the Championships, the performances gave the team’s South Korean coach Lee Jae-Soo enough confidence to set some ambitious goals.
“The entire team attended the two training camps and they’re ready for the competition, while the six members who competed at the World Championships gained some valuable top level experience. My players will certainly benefit from the home advantage. Ideally, I’m expecting them to win at least three medals in September,” he said.
Jelaletdin Batyrov, who will compete in the men’s 68kg category, is also one of Turkmenistan’s strongest medal prospects. Starting his sporting journey in Aikido, Batyrov switched in 2011.
The 17-year-old, who won a silver medal at the highly competitive 5th International Fujairah Open earlier this year, recalled his early days.
“Although I began my journey in Aikido, I quickly got tired with it as it’s a very defensive sport. I wanted to try a combat sport that gave much more importance to offensive moves so Taekwondo fits the bill perfectly. It also opened up many more competition opportunities for me. I’ve never regretted my decision to switch,” he said.
“Though I was the first sportsperson in my family, my younger sister Medina has followed in my footsteps. She’s now 14 and has already been training for a few years. I’m hoping that we can do great things together for the country. We want to make our parents proud,” he added.
Selbi Kichigulova (49kg), one of only two female members in the team, was also a part of the national team in Muju. She too has made the switch from another sport.
“My father Orazmurat Muhammedow was a Karate coach and I used to train under him. But everything changed after I watched the 2012 London Olympic Games on TV. The Taekwondo fights really attracted me. Despite my father’s initial reservations, I decided to take it up professionally. But it wasn’t an easy change,” said the 21-year-old.
“Taekwondo training is much more intense than Karate. You need to possess much better stamina because Taekwondo bouts are far longer (three bouts of two minutes each) when compared to Karate (single two-minute bout). You also need to keep yourself constantly in motion. But I still love it. Since my father will watch me compete in Ashgabat, I want to prove once and for all that my decision to move on was the right one.”
Despite being 30, Serdar Annagylyjov is one of the team’s latest additions to the sport having only taken it up last year. But that has not stopped the second dan black belt from dreaming big.
“I used to train under Selbi’s father and was the Turkmenistan national Karate champion for 12 years. For me, the switch was not at all difficult. In September, I’m aiming for nothing short of a gold medal. I’m confident I can do it,” he said.
If Shanepes Hudayberdiyev manages to medal at Ashgabat 2017, then the country will owe a big debt of gratitude to Hollywood.
“I used to be a good Basketball player at school, but also used to watch lots of Hollywood films. I was particularly smitten by Bruce Lee and wanted to kick high just like him. That was what led me to Taekwondo,” said the 21-year-old.
“But honestly, my father Hojanepes, who was a former judoka and Sambo wrestler, aided me in making the decision. He always supported me and my move to Taekwondo,” he said.
Yusup Annayew, Polat Bayramow, Berdi Berdiyew, Nurmyrat Berkeliyew, Serdar Caryyew, Isanberdi Gulamow, Serdar Gurtgeldiyew, Aleksandr Kuwarzin, Ata Melebayew, Muhammet Rozyyew, Rzaguly Toymyradow and Aylar Gurbanowa are the other members of the team.
Taekwondo at the Ashgabat 2017 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games will be held at the Taekwondo DanceSport Arena in the Ashgabat Olympic Complex from 18–22 September.