Turk­menistan leader lashes out at Olympic fail­ures

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

TURK­MENISTAN’S pres­i­dent Gur­ban­guly Berdy­mukhame­dov gave his sports chief a pub­lic dress­ing­down on Au­gust 23 af­ter the Cen­tral Asian coun­try’s ath­letes once more came home empty-handed from the Olympics.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing that even with all the fa­cil­i­ties pro­vided, you could not jus­tify the trust of the na­tion,” Berdy­mukhame­dov told the sports com­mit­tee chief Kaak­bay Sei­idov in an an­gry en­counter shown on state tele­vi­sion.

Oil-rich Turk­menistan, with a pop­u­la­tion of 5 mil­lion, has never won an Olympic medal, un­like its four neigh­bours in ex-Soviet Cen­tral Asia.

At Rio, none of its nine ath­letes got past the qual­i­fi­ca­tion rounds.

The pres­i­dent told the sports chief, whose po­si­tion is the equiv­a­lent of min­is­ter, that he had failed to do all he could “to in­crease the sport­ing au­thor­ity of the fa­ther­land”.

The pres­i­dent also warned Sei­idov to “make good on th­ese short­com­ings in the near fu­ture or face the sack”, state tele­vi­sion re­ported.

In 2012, Berdy­mukhame­dov, who is a keen horse­man, fired a pre­vi­ous sports com­mit­tee head af­ter a sim­i­larly poor per­for­mance by the na­tional team at the Lon­don Olympics.

The only Turk­menistan-born ath­lete to claim a medal at this year’s Games – sil­ver-win­ning weightlifter Dani­yar Is­may­ilov – did so rep­re­sent­ing Turkey, where he now lives per­ma­nently.

Berdy­mukhame­dov, 59, has spent bil­lions in build­ing world-class sports fa­cil­i­ties for the coun­try to host the Asian In­door and Mar­tial Arts Games in Septem­ber 2017, while Bri­tish run­ning le­gend Se­bas­tian Coe’s com­pany has given ad­vice on plan­ning.

The Turk­men leader over­sees a “month of health and hap­pi­ness” ev­ery spring in which state of­fi­cials and or­di­nary cit­i­zens are forced to take part in mass group ex­er­cises in pub­lic.

He took power in the tightly con­trolled coun­try af­ter er­ratic pre­de­ces­sor Sa­pur­mu­rat Niya­zov died of a re­ported heart at­tack in 2006.

This year, Turk­menistan’s neigh­bours Kaza­khstan and Uzbek­istan both en­joyed their best-ever medal hauls at Sum­mer Games, tak­ing 17 and 13 medals re­spec­tively.

A weightlifter from Kyr­gyzs­tan was the first ath­lete ex­cluded for dop­ing, strip­ping the coun­try of its only medal. –

The pres­i­dent told the sports chief, whose po­si­tion is the equiv­a­lent of min­is­ter, that he had failed to do all he could ‘to in­crease the sport­ing au­thor­ity of the fa­ther­land.

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