The decision to allow Oceania nations to compete in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games for the first time has opened the continent’s door to one of world sport’s traditional heavyweight nations.
Australia have been consistently performing well on the international level for decades, and will take their place on the Ashgabat 2017 roster alongside 64 other delegations who are set to arrive this week in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat ahead of Sunday’s Opening Ceremony.
Eighteen athletes will travel from Down Under to compete in Weightlifting, Wrestling and Taekwondo with the joint aim of providing big Games experience to their up-and-coming stars, whilst bidding to make their mark on the event with podium places.
“Ashgabat will offer our athletes the chance to be in an environment with athletes from other sports, and to experience life in an Athletes Village. Both are held in brand new state of the art facilities in Ashgabat,” said Joelie Chisholm, CEO of Australian Taekwondo.
“The major goals for the team in Ashgabat will be to experience a multi-sport environment, to gain good quality exposure at international competition, and to build on the lessons that were learnt at the World Championships.”
Despite being just 21, weightlifter Ridge Barredo is one of the more experienced members of the team, having won bronze at the 2015 Junior Commonwealth Championships in Puna, India, before going on to contest the Olympic qualification event in 2016.
The 21-year-old lifted an impressive 300kg at the Oceania Championships, which doubled as the Rio qualification event. While it wasn’t quite enough to secure him an Olympic birth, it did ensure he is now one of the athletes to watch in the sport in coming years.
“Initially I was pretty surprised [when selected to the team] because I have never even heard about this competition and I usually forecast what comps I’m going to do from the start of the year,” Barredo said.
“But after doing some research on it I was quite stoked to be given this opportunity. I’ve seen videos of the facilities they’re using and it all looks world class and should be a fantastic experience.
“It will definitely be the biggest competition I have competed in throughout my athletic career, as well as having the best caliber of athletes I have to compete against, which could be quite humbling.”
Australia’s wrestlers have not had long to regroup following the United World Wrestling Championship in Paris where the inexperienced team squared up to the best on the planet. Ashgabat 2017 will be another stepping stone on their journey to becoming a more formidable force in the sport.
The team’s Chef de Mission is also the President of Wresting Australia, John Saul, who said the Ashgabat 2017 opportunity for Australia’s youthful team will be an invaluable experience.
“Big events such as World Championships and these Games can be overpowering experiences simply by the atmosphere of the event in huge stadiums in front of loud and enthusiastic crowds,” Saul said.
“As martial arts and combat sports are an extremely popular part of the Turkmenistan culture we are assured of a huge competition in front of a crowd that will be super enthusiastic.
“Our wrestlers have a most valuable opportunity to learn and grow from their experience at this event.”
There will be a total of 19 delegations traveling to the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games from Oceania.
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