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Meyers and Afonczenko learn from the best at Ashgabat 2017

20 September 2017

ASHGABAT 2017: Day two of thefifth Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) saw two fighting Aussies face Asia’s best in Taekwondo.

Adam Meyers and Will Afonczenko took to the mats in their respective -87kg and -63kg categories, knowing they both had a tough fight on their hands.

After advancing straight through the round of 16 because his Indian opponent didn’t show, 25-year-old Meyers came up against the number one seed from Iran, Saeid Rajabi, in the quarter-finals.

Fresh off a gold medal at the 2017 Universaide in Chinese Taipei, Rajabi defeated Meyers by Point Gap 24-4.

The Melbournian knew he was up for a challenge when he drew Iran, but relished the opportunity to challenge the best opponent he has ever faced.

“[Rajabi] was coming in red hot off a good run and gold medal at the World University Games last month,” Meyers said.

“He took control from the start and maintained the distance on me. I couldn’t really get around his height or the hip control and he graciously struck me when he pleased.”

Usually fighting as a heavyweight, Meyers had dropped down to the -87kg category for the Ashgabat Games as that was the largest weight division on offer.

“This is not my usual weight category but I definitely felt more comfortable and more physical than I would in the heavier divisions,” he said.

“This is the first time I have competed internationally at this weight in two years because they didn’t have the heavyweight in Ashgabat. I thought I would give it a go anyway and I did feel better. I will probably stay at this weight now.”

Afonczenko faced Van Duy Nguyen from Vietnam in the round of 16 earlier on Tuesday, and although he felt physically prepared, he said he needs to work on his mental game.

“From the start, things didn’t really go my way, so I didn’t get that good feeling,” Afonczenko said about the 22-5 defeat.

With the village, venues and competition format designed to run similarly to an Olympics, Ashgabat 2017 provides the Australian team with a Games-like international experience that replicates the 4-year pinnacle of sport.

18-year-old Afonczenko has recently returned from his first multi-sport event at the World University Games, and said this unique Olympic-like atmosphere is what he needs to improve his performance.

“I did struggle mentally to get myself into the right headspace and adapt to the different environment. I found the coaching style different to what I am used to, but that makes it a good learning experience because in the future, if I make to the Olympic Games, I might not have my normal coach there.

“So that’s something I need to get used to and I can’t rely on anyone else to do that, I have to work on that for myself,” he said.

“It’s just all experience. The more times you do it, the better you get at it.”

With competition wrapped up for the two Victorian fighters, what are they looking forward to now?

“I’m going to eat a lot of pizza tonight,” Meyers said. “I’ve been dieting to make that -87kg for the first time in a while so I can’t wait to get into the dining hall!”

“I hope I can smash a few burgers. Maybe I can even find a traditional Turkmenistan burger to feature on my ‘cheesy.boys’ Instagram page,” Afonczenko laughed.

The Ashgabat Taekwondo competition continues on Wednesday with Keshena Waterford (-46kg) and Cameron Taylor (-80kg) wearing the green and gold.

The weightlifting competition kicks off on Wednesday with Brandon Wakeling in the 69kg category.

See the full competition schedule HERE.

Georgia Thompson

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