Tennis coach flees Uzbekistan troubles

A NATIONAL tennis coach from Suffolk has told how he feared for his life when he was caught up in the violence that erupted in Uzbekistan.James Trotman, 26, described how he and a group of six players needed an armed escort to escape the civil unrest in Andijan, where they were taking part in a tournament.

A NATIONAL tennis coach from Suffolk has told how he feared for his life when he was caught up in the violence that erupted in Uzbekistan.

James Trotman, 26, described how he and a group of six players needed an armed escort to escape the civil unrest in Andijan, where they were taking part in a tournament.

Mr Trotman was only about two miles away from the centre of the troubles in the central Asian republic.

The former junior Wimbledon doubles champion arrived safely back in the UK on Monday and was reunited with his concerned family in Tuddenham St Martin, near Ipswich, yesterday .


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He said: “We were obviously worried. We heard gunshots and they were getting closer at some points.”

Mr Trotman said the first time they heard of any problems in the city was when they turned up to the Andijan club last Friday morning and were told that about 1,000 prisoners had escaped but the situation was under control.

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The former member of Sproughton Tennis Club said: “The tournament was still going on. Where we were staying we hadn't heard anything that night. Apparently there was gunfire at about 2am. There was a break and it started again at about 3 to 4pm.

"We could hear gunshots in the distance and a helicopter overhead. We then started to think what was going on was quite serious.”

Mr Trotman contacted the Lawn Tennis Association, who he works for, by telephone from the club, who then contacted the British Embassy.

He said: “Then we realised it was more serious than they had originally said.

"It was a little worrying as there were various reports coming in from back home saying the number of people who had died and that there was a crowd of 4,000 gathered.

"We weren't sure and it was the uncertainty of what had happened which was hardest.

"We then spoke to the British consulate, which said they were sending a team from Tashkent and they advised us to stay put and not move anymore.

"We were holed up in the tennis club. We were waiting for the people to come from the British Embassy.

“They turned up at about 1am in the morning . They said to wait until daybreak and they would then try and get us an armed guard to try and drive us from Andijan to Fergana.”

The tennis coach and the six players - British number four Arvind Parmar and number five Jamie Delgado, David Sherwood, Jonny Marray, Dan Kiernan and Richard Bloomfield, who is from Alpington, near Norwich - stayed in the club for 24 hours.

Andijan is about a five-hour car journey away from Tashkent, where the airport is located. The next morning at 9am they were rushed out of the city with an armed guard, heading for the nearby Fergana.

“Once we had passed the city boundaries everything was ok. We saw all the army and the roads were blocked. There were some people firing warning shots in the air.”

Once in Fergana the group had cars to take them back to Tashkent, where they were booked on the first available flight back to the UK early on Monday morning.

Mr Trotman, who has been a tennis coach for five years, said: "I've travelled to most places around the world but I've never been anywhere like that - and it's probably the last.

"The worst thing about it was the uncertainty - not knowing what was happening.

"The fighting was going on about two miles away from where we were. When we got to Tashkent we stayed in a nice hotel and it was a relief to be out of there and coming home.”

Mr Trotman is starting back at work again on Thursday to prepare for the tournaments leading up to Wimbledon.

It is still unclear what happened in the disturbances in the eastern town of Andijan.

The government has blamed Islamic extremists for the violence. It was sparked after armed men set free prisoners but many of the demonstrators were citizens complaining about poverty and unemployment. They called for president Islam Karimov's resignation.

Conflicting reports from the nation yesterday put the death toll between 169 and 745 as fighting broke out between Government forces and militants.

Amnesty International has called on the authorities of Uzbekistan to allow a prompt and independent investigation into the violence.

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