Ï Merdan Atayev: «Being the standard bearer of the Turkmenistan team is a high honour»
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Merdan Atayev: «Being the standard bearer of the Turkmenistan team is a high honour»

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Merdan Atayev: «Being the standard bearer of the Turkmenistan team is a high honour»
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Alexander Vershinin

Swimmer Merdan Atayev and judoka Maysa Pardayeva will be the standard bearers of the Turkmenistan team at the opening ceremony of the 19th Summer Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, which will take place on the 23rd of September. This was announced at a working meeting held at the headquarters of the Turkmen delegation.

As already reported, Merdan Atayev arrived at the location of the Turkmenistan team in China on Monday after the completion of the international tournament in Dushanbe the other day. But Maysa Pardayeva is still at the final preparatory training camp in Baku and will join the delegation in Hangzhou two days before the opening of the Asian Games.

Today we are talking about the first standard-bearer of our team at the upcoming Asian Games - Merdan Atayev, who currently holds six Turkmenistan records in «long and short course» at distances of 50, 100 and 200 meters on the backstroke.

By today's standards, Merdan started swimming professionally quite late - at the age of 17. Before that, following the example of his father, the famous water polo player Guvanch Atayev, he played water polo for five years, and was even the goalkeeper of the Turkmenistan national team. And who knows how the sporting fate of this teenager would have developed in the future if 11 years ago the Honoured Coach of Turkmenistan Sergey Epifanov had not seen him at a city swimming competition. Then, at the Ashgabat swimming championship, the sports school, where Merdan was in the water polo section, urgently needed to field his team, and the senior coach of the national water polo team, Begench Cherkezov, entered the 50-meter distance in the backstroke of the tall M. Atayev. The debutant did not disappoint - he took second place.

However, it was not the result that attracted the attention of Merdan, the head coach of the Turkmenistan swimming team, Sergey Epifanov. Excellent technical data, tall height, good movement in the shoulders indicated that this guy could make a good spin swimmer.

However, it was not the result that attracted the attention of Merdan, the head coach of the Turkmenistan swimming team, Sergey Epifanov. Excellent technical data, tall height, good movement in the shoulders indicated that this guy could make a good spin swimmer.

«Begench, give me Merdan, I’ll make a «candy» out of him», Sergey Petrovich then addressed the head coach of the Turkmenistan water polo team.

It took a long time to persuade B. Cherkezov, about three months, until the State Sports Committee of Turkmenistan intervened in the situation and transferred the capable young man to the swimming section of Sergey Epifanov.

«Merdan eagerly joined the new work. He’s very efficient and hardworking, which is what especially won me over», -said Sergey Petrovich.

And the results were not long in coming. A year later, at the Turkish Open Championship, M. Atayev won two bronze medals at distances of 50 and 100 meters on the backstroke. And a year later, at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, he was the first Turkmen swimmer to reach the final in the 100-meter race and eventually took an honorable 7th place with a result of 56.63 seconds.

In 2015, at an international age-group tournament in Dubai, Merdan won one silver and two bronze medals, and in 2016 he twice reached the finals at the Asian Championships in Tokyo, setting personal bests in the 100 meters (55.90 sec. ) and 50 meters (25.95 sec.).

In April 2017, at the Central Asian Short Course Championships in Ashgabat, M. Atayev won the first two gold medals in his career - 50 and 100 meters backstroke, as well as two silvers in the combined relay races (4x50 meters and 4x100 meters). In the same year, at the IV Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku, he won two silver medals in the 50 meters (25.82 seconds) and 100 meters (55.44 seconds) backstroke, setting national records at these distances in the «long water» (pool 50 meters). However, later, at the Uzbekistan 2021 Open Championship qualifying for the Olympics, Merdan updated the Turkmenistan record in the 100-meter dash, which is now 54.91 seconds, and in the same year at the Olympic Games in Tokyo he set another one in the 200-meter dash (2.03 ,68).

In short course (25 meter pool), two records of Turkmenistan for 50 meters (24.77 seconds) and 100 meters (52.86 seconds) backstroke were set by Merdan Atayev in 2017 at the V Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat , and another national record - in the 200-meter (1 minute 59.49 seconds) - on December 18, 2022 at the World Championships in Melbourne (Australia).

At the same time, M. Atayev’s track record today includes 28 medals, of which 12 are gold, 11 are silver and 5 are bronze.

In addition, Merdan Atayev was the standard bearer of our team twice at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. And now for the first time he will carry the flag of Turkmenistan at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games.

«Being the standard bearer of the Turkmenistan team at the opening of the Asian and Olympic Games is a high honour. At such moments, you especially feel proud of the country, which, thanks to independence, has the opportunity to compete under the national flag as an independent team in all major international competitions. I am sincerely grateful to President Serdar Berdimuhamedov and the National Leader of the Turkmen people, Hero-Arkadag, thanks to whose care Turkmen athletes received an excellent opportunity to train in magnificent sports facilities and improve their skills».

At the Asian Games in Hangzhou, Merdan Atayev will start in the 50 and 100-meter distances, where he hopes to make it to the finals.