The Games begin: Turkmenistan eyes the first gold medals

Turkmenistan seeks a pre-Opening Ceremony gold medal rush in Traditional Wrestling and Ju Jitsu, in the first events at the Ashgabat 2017 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, on Saturday 16 September.

A new MMA-style Ju Jitsu category kicks off the action at the Martial Arts Arena, with the Full Contact discipline. The new event, tested at the Asian championships, includes kicks and punches in the standing position.

The new event is Turkmenistan’s main hope in the Ju Jitsu competition and the host nation is entering a full complement of eight athletes in the four men’s classes. Afghanistan and Thailand, with seven each, will do their best to ruin the home fans’ dreams of a gold rush on the first day of competition.

In the Traditional Wrestling, the men’s Freestyle competition begins proceedings with the -57 kg category, where 11 athletes will contest for gold. Among the 115 competing male athletes the 16 representing the host nation, Turkmenistan, is the largest contingent and it is followed by Uzbekistan and India, which both have 14 competitiors.

The women’s Traditonal Wrestling Freestyle competition is all about Gulnar Hayytbayewa from Turkmenistan. She will compete for a medal in the -63kg category, one of five weight categories for women.

Futsal is the other sport starting on Saturday, with the group stage of the competition. Iran will be looking to maintain their winning streak in men’s, while Japan are fancied in the women’s tournament.

As winners of the previous four Games, the Iran men’s team has set the benchmark in the sport, and has won the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Futsal title 11 times, securing their most recent title with a 2-1 victory against Uzbekistan in 2016. Iran are sixth in the FIFA Futsal world rankings while closest rivals at Ashgabat 2017 – Japan and Thailand – are 15th and 17th respectively.

In women’s Japan were winners of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in 2007, 2009 and 2013. But their dominance will be threatened by Iran, who beat them 1-0 in the final of the inaugural AFC Women’s Futsal Championship in Malaysia in 2015.

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