Wait for Olympics

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - FRONT PAGE -

EAST Vic­to­ria Park res­i­dent Ando Lemhets is keen to get to the Olympics to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia. But first the Es­to­nian born wrestler must fight to get out of Visa pur­ga­tory.

ANDO Lehmets is used to wrestling his op­po­nents into sub­mis­sion but the red tape stand­ing be­tween him and his Olympic dream is one prob­lem he can­not sim­ply toss aside.

A two-time Es­to­nian na­tional cham­pion in the Olympic sport of Greco-Ro­man wrestling, Lehmets hopes to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia in Rio de Janeiro in Au­gust.

But it ap­pears his Olympic dream will have to wait for the East Vic­to­ria Park res­i­dent, with the 25-year-old im­mi­grant stuck in a visa pur­ga­tory that will pre­vent him from tak­ing part in the na­tional se­lec­tion event next month.

Lehmets has spent just over two years in Aus­tralia, drawn to Perth for a work­ing hol­i­day by “the warm weather and friendly peo­ple”. Shortly af­ter ar­riv­ing in WA, he be­gan train­ing with coach Adrian Te­sanoic out of MMA 24/7 in Bel­mont.

In 2015, he won both the Aus­tralia Cup Fes­ti­val and Can­berra Cup, cruis­ing to vic­tory de­spite the pres­ence of in­ter­na­tional wrestlers. In Oc­to­ber last year, Te­sanoic helped Lehmets ap­ply for a dis­tin­guished tal­ent visa in hopes of al­low­ing his pro­tege to com­pete at Rio 2016.

“The Euro­pean level of wrestling is the high­est in the world, es­pe­cially in coun­tries in east­ern Europe that used to be part of the Soviet Union,” he said. “Ando has com­peted in two Euro­pean cham­pi­onships and would eas­ily qual­ify for the Aus­tralian team.”

A rul­ing on the visa is due in April but the pair are hop­ing for a de­ci­sion by early Fe­bru­ary to al­low Lehmets to com­pete at the na­tional cham­pi­onships – dou­bling as the Olympic qual­i­fier – from Fe­bru­ary 19-21 in Mel­bourne.

Lehmets said his pas­sion was such that he was pre­pared to wait un­til 2020 if nec­es­sary.

“I started wrestling at 10 years old and I’ve wanted to com­pete at the Olympics for a long time now,” he said.

Pic­ture: Matt Jelonek d445707

Wrestler Ando Lehmets with his trainer Adrian Te­sanoic.

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