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A surreal experience for Australia's first athletes at Ashgabat

15 September 2017

ASHGABAT 2017: The excitement of the local media could not be contained when the Australian taekwondo athletes touched down at Ashgabat International Airport on Tuesday night.

After the 24-hour journey from Australia the six athletes were bombarded with cameras and microphones from the very eager Turkmenistan media.

“It was exciting, it wasn’t something I was used to,” said 18-year-old Will Afonczenko of the huge welcome at the airport.

Afonczenko is a member of Australia’s 18-strong debuting Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) Team, competing at the fifth installment of the Games alongside Asia and Oceania’s best athletes.

“They didn’t speak much English, but they were all swarming us and excited to see us, excited to see Australia compete at the Games,” he said.

Rowing pictogram

After a police escort from the airport through the capital city to the brand new Olympic Village, the athletes were just as excited as the media after taking in the breathtaking views of the city.

“All the buildings and architecture is crazy in the city, it’s so surreal,” Afonczenko said.

“The village speaks for itself, with the money and resources put into it, it’s just crazy and so beautiful - it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

The opulent village of white marble, multi-story apartment buildings will house the Australian team plus 62 other competing nations for the duration of the Games.

They will compete in brand new competition venues which are some of the best training and competition grounds the athletes and officials have ever seen.

“The facilities are fantastic, the venues are first class, some of the best in the world,” said Australian Chef de Mission John Saul who has been on the ground since last Friday and has had an opportunity to tour all competition areas.

“All the equipment is great, the village is magnificent, all the facilities for the athletes are first class - they couldn’t want any better.”

Rowing pictogram

After inspecting the wrestling, weightlifting and taekwondo venues which the Australian team will put through its paces in four days’ time, Saul is satisfied the venues will provide an opportunity for the athletes to compete at their very best.

“There is everything here that they could possibly need,” he said.

Australia’s six weightlifting athletes will join the taekwondo team in Ashgabat on Friday, with the wrestling team touching down the following Tuesday.

The athletes will march under the Australian flag at the Opening Ceremony on Sunday before competition gets underway for the first Taekwondo athletes on Monday.

See the Games schedule and results HERE, plus there is an ‘Ashgabat 2017’ app you can download.

Follow our Australian Team on the Games page HERE.

Georgia Thompson

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