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Australia officially welcomed at Ashgabat 2017

16 September 2017

ASHGABAT 2017: The Australian team have been greeted in a flurry of colour, costumes and traditional music at the Ashgabat 2017 Welcome Ceremony.

Joined by athletes from Iran, Fiji, Palestine and Tuvalu, the Australian flag was raised as the anthem played in front of athletes, officials, Turkmenistan performers and international media.

While the Aussie taekwondo athletes have had a few days to settle into village life, for the six weightlifters who touched down in Turkmenistan only a couple of hours before the ceremony, it was an a vibrant introduction to their first multi-sport competition.

“It’s amazing to be here, it’s so surreal,” said weightlifter Jocelyne Francken.

“The ceremony was awesome, it was great to see the dancing and the flags. It was all so official.”

For Francken and four of her weightlifting teammates, Ashgabat 2017 is not only her first multi-sport event, but also her international debut for Australia.

“It’s a good experience to be here and to see different sports and different nationalities and just be amongst it all,” the 22-year-old said.

Australia’s Chef de Mission, John Saul, presented the Chairman of the Ashgabat 2017 Executive Committee, Dayanch Gulgeldiyev, with an Australian gift at the ceremony and received a traditional Turkmenistan rug in return.

Gulgeldiyev welcomed all athletes and officials to the largest ever Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games, with a special welcome to Oceania nations as it is the first time they have been invited to participate in any Asia Games and be eligible to win medals.

Australian taekwondo athlete Adam Myers has been in the Athlete Village since Tuesday and is excited to see the Games preparations ramping up as more athletes from the 65 delegations arrive.

“It’s pretty pumped up,” he said. “There is a lot more people in the village now than when we first got here so we’re seeing a lot more action.”

The athletes are buzzing for the grand Opening Ceremony which will start at exactly 20:17 on Sunday.

Competition kicks off for the Australia team on Monday 18th. See the full competition schedule here

Georgia Thompson

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