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Australian lifters ready to take on Asia’s best at Ashgabat 2017

17 August 2017

ASHGABAT 2017: In one month’s time, six up-and-coming Australian weightlifters will face Asia and Oceania’s best at the 2017 Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

With an average age of 22-years, the team boasts the likes of 2017 Australian Champions Brandon Wakeling (M 69kg) and Jacob Marquardt (M 94kg).

Ridge Barredo (M 105kg) is one of the more experienced lifters on 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.

At the U15-U17-Jnr-U23 and Snr Championships in April this year, he not only won gold in the male 105kg category, but added 4kg to his previous personal bests in both the snatch and clean and jerk, taking his total personal best to 315kg.

While his selection onto the Australian team for Ashgabat was a shock, it’s an opportunity the Sydney-sider is looking forward to grabbing with both hands.

“Initially I was pretty surprised [when selected on 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 calibre of athletes I have to compete against, which could be quite humbling,” he said.

Matthew Lydement, who won silver at the 2017 Australian Championships, will join Barredo in the 105kg event next month.

Also donning the green and gold for their first international competition are recent CrossFit turned weightlifters Sofia Zudova and Jocelyn Francken.

Three months after starting CrossFit in 2015, Zudova discovered she had a knack for the weightlifting element and began lifting full time.

The 22-year-old from Melbourne felt a mixture of relief and pride when she was selected onto her first Australian team.

“Pride to finally be good enough to represent Australia and relief that the hard work is finally paying off and I'm getting to the sort of level I've been chasing since I started the sport,” Zudova said.

The post-graduate law student said representing Australia has been a goal since she was little.

“The green and gold team suit has always been a dream. I didn't always plan to earn it through weightlifting, as I came from a volleyball background, but wearing the green and gold has always been my aim.”

22-year-old Francken, who was a NSW Track and Field representative in pentathlon, only started lifting at the end of 2016 and placed fourth in the female 96kg at this year’s National Championships.

Having been in the sport for less than a year, the lifter from Medlow Bath, NSW is thrilled with the opportunities weightlifting has already given her.

“I am incredibly excited for my international debut,” Francken said.

“I feel very lucky for the experiences I've had so far in weightlifting. It has already taken me to many Australian states I hadn't been to before, allowed me to make many new friends and challenge me in a way I haven't been before.

“My personal coach Martin Harlowe has been a great mentor and has helped me immensely with my transition into competitive weightlifting.

“I hope the Asian Indoor Games will be the first of many international competitions for me,” she said.

The Ashgabat weightlifters have just completed a high-performance training camp at the AIS in Canberra where the team from all corners of Australia came together for the first time to train with Head Coach Leo Isaac and Australian Weightlifting Federation staff.

Prior to the Ashgabat Games the athletes will all compete at the Oceania and Commonwealth Championships on the first weekend of September in the Gold Coast, which doubles as the qualification event for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, before traveling to Turkmenistan to take on the region’s best.

Ashgabat 2017 will run 17-27 of September, with the weightlifters competing between 18-24 September.

Australian Weightlifting Team for Ashgabat 2017

Ridge Barredo M 105kg. (21, Sydney, NSW)

Matthew Lydement M 105kg (23, Brisbane, QLD)

Jacob Marquardt M 94kg (22, Campbelltown, NSW)

Brandon Wakeling M 69kg (23, Gold Coast, QLD)

Jocelyn Francken F 69kg (22, Medlow Bath, NSW)

Sofia Zudova F 75kg (22, Melbourne VIC)

Georgia Thompson

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