Grappling bureaucracy


Wrestler Ando Lehmets with his trainer Adrian Tesanoic. Picture: Matt Jelonek           d445707
Wrestler Ando Lehmets with his trainer Adrian Tesanoic. Picture: Matt Jelonek         d445707

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.