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The Tokyo dream ignited for Burkhart in Ashgabat

27 September 2017

ASHGABAT 2017: Ariadne Burkhart is feeling more confident about the possibility of an Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 after her wrestling experieince at Ashgabat 2017.

After competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 14 years, the 34-year-old started wrestling two years ago, lured by the prospect of representing Australia at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

Even though the 59kg wrestler lost 8-4 to Guam’s Rckaela Aquino in the 1/8 finals in Turkmenistan, Burkhart kept the match very close and fought to the end.

“There were some small technical mistakes I made that cost me the match, but it wasn’t anything huge and it definitely wasn’t a landslide,” Burkhart said.

“I was pleased to have that match and was glad she was the one that I drew, I’m just disappointed because we were matched and I think I could have won it."

With the digits on the scoreboard aside, the Sydney-sider was reminded she is not past her prime in the sport and the experience has fired her up for a bright future.

“I was out there thinking ‘this is amazing, I get to do this for Australia and my body is feeling really good',” she said.

“This does not take away from my confidence in the sport. I know that I’m new but this shows me there is still a place for me.

“Even being 34 and having a different sport behind me, there is still a place for me to go in wrestling.”

The firefighter with NSW Fire and Rescue balances shift work with her training commitments. She has even taken wrestling mats into her fire station for training when she’s not out on a job.

While she has previously struggled to convince her co-workers to join her on the mats, she might try to persuade them more now she has a bigger goal in mind.

“Tokyo honestly seems like it is a possibility now, where before I thought I might be too old.

“I keep taking it one step at a time, but after this experience competing against this broad field I really think I could have a crack.”

Inspired by her fellow Australian AIMAG teammate, taekwondo athlete Ruth Hock, Burkhart is realizing that age is not a barrier to achieving her goals.

“Look at Ruth! She’s 32 and a mother of two and she can do it, so why can’t I?”

Women’s -53kg wrestler Carissa Holland had to pull out from competition at the eleventh hour after a flared-up elbow injury MRI scan showed it had been dislocated in training and competing with the injury could cause permanent damage.

Although she was devastated to have to pull out of the Ashgabat Games, with her heart set on a second Commonwealth Games experience next year and an Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, it was a tough decision she had to make with the guidance of the team doctor, physio and her two coaches.

“I have to be at Tokyo 2020,” Holland said. “I don’t just want to be there, I have to be there.

“Of course I’m shattered [to pull out of competing] but I can’t risk permanent damage that would ruin me for the Commonwealth Games and Tokyo.”

Australia’s wrestling campaign at Ashgabat 2017 has now wrapped up and the athletes will return home to start working towards the Commonwealth Championships.

See the full results HERE.

Georgia Thompson

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Ari Burkhart