Uzbekistan’s Taekwondo fighters will be setting their sights on making a major impact at the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat as the country aims to further establish itself among the sport’s elite.
The event gets underway on Sunday at the Ashgabat Olympic Complex with a glittering Opening Ceremony that will officially herald Turkmenistan’s entry into the world of hosting major sporting events, and Taekwondo is expected to be a blue chip event.
And will give Uzbekistan the perfect opportunituy to show its recent development in a sport that has become established on the Olympic programme.
The nation picked up just two medals at the Asian Martial Arts Games when they were held in Bangkok back in 2009, with Evgeniya Karimova claiming silver in the women’s heavyweight division and Rustamjon Pulatov claiming a bronze in the men’s flyweight.
But an impressive showing at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea in 2014 highlights that the Central Asian state has a solid base upon which to make an attempt to join the world’s leading nations.
Jasur Baykuziyev won gold at the Asiad in the Middleweight division while Nikita Rafalovich, Maksim Rafalovich and Dmitriy Shokin all won silver in their respective weight classes as Uzbekistan were among the dominant forces in the men’s disciplines.
From there, Shokin went on to even greater success, becoming a gold medal winner at the 2015 World Taekwondo Championship in the heavyweight division before missing out on delivering the country’s first-ever Olympic medal in the sport in Rio de Janeiro last year.
But in an effort to further establish the discipline in the country, moves are being made by the Uzbekistan Taekwondo Federation and the government of Uzbekistan to establish the sport as a Major available at the National University of Uzbekistan from October.
And the ultimate goal is to finally break the country’s Olympic drought.
"Last month, (World Taekwondo President) Choue (Chung-won) had a meeting with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Uzbekistan as our country hosted the inaugural World Taekwondo President's Cup-Asian Region Taekwondo Championships in Tashkent,” Parpiev Botir Rakhmatovich, the President of the Uzbekistan Taekwondo Association said on his visit to Korea Republic.
“After the meeting, the President decided to launch a Taekwondo department in the National University of Uzbekistan, and I am here to ask for advice on curriculum content.
"We have been running a Taekwondo Department in the State Institute of Physical Culture and Sport since 2009. The decision to launch another in the national university will help us to foster more talented Taekwondo practitioners and trainers.”
Uzbekistan’s performance at the regional championships on their own soil – where they were the dominant force, claiming 96 medals, 26 of which were gold – further highlights the strength in depth within the country and their status as one of the contenders to dominate in Ashgabat next week.
“As we have many talented Taekwondo athletes, the government is trying to foster more talent," said Rakhmatovich.
And while success at regional and continental level is undoubtedly seen as desirable, the Uzbeks have set themselves even bigger goals.
"As we have many competitive Taekwondo athletes, we are aiming to win a gold medal in Tokyo 2020," he said.
But first up is the tough competition of Ashgabat 2017 which gets underway with the Opening Ceremony on Sunday.
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