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Waterford wins Australia’s first medal at Ashgabat 2017

21 September 2017

ASHGABAT 2017: Keshena Waterford has made history for Australia by winning the nation’s first ever Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) medal with bronze in Taekwondo.

After sailing through the round of 16 and the quarter-finals with Win by Point Gap victories, the 27-year-old came up against one of the major powerhouse nations of Taekwondo when she faced Korea’s Jihea Kim in the semi-final on Wednesday evening.

The Canberra local put up a strong fight but went down to the eventual silver medalist 24-7. Gold went to Yu-Ting Hung from Chinese Taipei with a 12-11 defeat over Kim.

“Of course it feels good,” Waterford said of winning Australia’s first AIMAG medal.

“I feel very proud to have had this opportunity to be in this place where I am the first person to do this.

“As an elite athlete you’re always looking for the next big thing, so I want to take a bit of time to really appreciate what it means to win this medal and that it is quite a big deal and to celebrate the moment,” she said.

Ashgabat 2017 is the first time Waterford has advanced to the medal round in a major tournament since she was almost forced to leave the sport last year after doctors struggled to diagnose her anemia and told her she was just getting too old to fight.

The realisation that she is overcoming those health issues and setbacks caught up to her when she learnt she had won a medal for Australia, and the emotions overwhelmed her in the third and final fight.

“Technically I felt good and I could do everything, but the Korean girl was more clam than I was. I started thinking emotional thoughts which don’t help me tactically, when normally I would be thinking about the game plan which keeps me calm.

“I feel like I am ready to go to that next level and it’s so close, but as this was my first medal round in a while because I’ve been so sick, I was feeling a bit emotional about it because I was thinking ‘this is my chance to show everyone, and to prove to myself that I have been working hard and the effort can pay off’.

“These were not my best fights, but they were not my worst fights. It’s days like today, when you’re not your best, that you do learn the most so it was a really great experience,” she said.

“It was great to see Keshena get such a fine reward for all the hard work she’s done,” Australia’s Chef de Mission John Saul said after he was invited to help present the medals and gifts of the -49kg category.

“The rest of the team was ecstatic when they saw her on the podium receiving her medal," she said.

Waterford’s coach of nine years, Danijel Crkvencic, said the Ashgabat tournament will make her a stronger fighter in the future.

“To get to the medal rounds at a competition like this is an invaluable experience for Kesh,” Crkvencic said.

“She has recognised that she let the external factors like the cameramen get to her and now she knows that she can fix that.

“Now she can work on that self-control, I really do believe she will be in more podium positions,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Cameron Taylor donned the green and gold in the men’s -80kg category.

After taking the first round and keeping the scores tight in the second, the third round just slipped from his grasp as he went down to Korea’s Seyoung Kim 23-8.

“Technically I fought quite well in the exchanges, but unfortunately I let myself down with a few easy points to him through penalties,” the 23-year-old said.

“Going into the last round I was a few points down and I had to chase for them and my fitness let me down a little bit, so that was a bit disappointing.”

For his first multi-sport competition, the village life and Olympic Games-like atmosphere was an entirely new experience for Cameron, one he found a bit distracting but an important opportunity to have.

“I think I was a little bit too keen, mentally a little too hyped up for my competition, and I think that’s partly being in the village for so long which I am not usually used to for competition,” he said.

“But if I go to more multi-sport events and when I start to travel more, it’s going to be really good to have had this experience and I’ve had a lot of fun being here.”

The Taekwondo competition wraps up for Australia on Thursday with Ruth Hock competing in the -67kg category. See the full competition schedule HERE.

Georgia Thompson

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