The nation of Turkmenistan may not yet be famed for its showjumping prowess — and it’s not often you’ll find the sport on a schedule alongside belt wrestling, chess and billiards — but that could all be about to change.
Five riders have been selected to represent Turkmenistan in the showjumping championships on home soil at the Ashgabat 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in September and they all have high hopes for success.
Four men and one woman are on the squad due to contest two sets of medals in the equestrian event.
Former jockey Ezber Babalyev, 32, came to the sport of showjumping 10 years ago.
“I felt I needed a change of scene, but didn’t want to get too far away from horses either, so I shifted to jumping,” said Ezber. “It’s a decision I never regretted making and I’ve come to enjoy this sport immensely.
“I train for two hours twice a day, my sole aim is to win a medal at home in September,” he added.
His teammate Fagilya Zaripova, 28, previously worked in a porcelain factory next to the competition venue, the Akhalteke Equestrian Complex.
“One day, I happened to see some equestrian athletes sitting with their beautiful horses, training at the centre,” she said. “I gathered my courage, walked up to them and asked for the person in charge. I asked the person about how to join the team. From there, I worked long and hard and soon I too became a part of the side.
“This sport and this country have given me so much. Now I want to repay them and the best way to do it is to win a medal at Ashgabat 2017. I think I’m ready.”
The pair will be joined at the Games by experienced rider Begli Garajayev, 33, who is studying for a qualification in horse psychology, 22-year-old Nikolay Beglaryan and Hanjar Gyshykov (pictured), and team preparations have been hotting up.
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“We were a part of several training camps in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands,” said Hanjar. “We also competed in quite a few local events while on camp. I think we’re now well prepared for the Asian challenge.”
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are among the other nations expected to send showjumping teams for the 10-day event which will host a total of 21 sports across 15 venues including basketball, short course swimming and weightlifting.
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