Kazakh tennis player wins one leg of ATP Challenger Tour

ASTANA – Kazakh tennis player Alexander Bublik won the 2019 Hungarian Challenger Open, an Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Challenger Tour tournament, held Feb. 4-10 in Budapest.

Alexander Bublik. Photo credit: informburo.kz.

Bublik beat Italian Roberto Marcora in the finals 6-0, 6-3. During the 55-minute game, the 21-year-old served five breaks and seven aces, making just two mistakes. Marcora, 29, made three aces and the same number of faults, reported sports.kz.

The meeting was the first between the two. At the time of the game, Bublik was 172nd in the ATP ranking; Marcora, 283rd.

This title was Bublik’s fourth on the Challenger Tour, bringing him a career total 80 rating points. The first-place finish was his eighth tournament win, including the International Tennis Federation and ATP Challenger tours.

The tournament, held since 2016, was previously won in single draws by Canadian Vashek Pospisil (2018), Austrian Jürgen Melzer (2017) and Romanian Marius Kopil (2016). This year’s prize fund was 64,000 euros (US$72,294).

Bublik debuted in the Davis Cup last week for the Kazakh national team, winning both matches, and his team defeated Portugal to reach the final stage. The finals will be held in November in Madrid.

According to the recent ATP ranking, Kazakh tennis player Mikhail Kukushkin improved his position by two lines to 53rd place. After the Hungarian tournament, Bublik improved to 144th and Kazakh player Alexander Nedovesov from 190th to 188th.

Novak Djokovic (Serbia) leads the ATP ranking, followed by Rafael Nadal (Spain) and Alexander Zverev (Germany).

Players who succeed on the international men’s ATP Challenger Tour earn ranking points to become eligible for the main draw or qualifying draw entry at ATP World Tour tournaments.



International Paralympic Committee President makes first visit to Kazakhstan

ASTANA – International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons visited Kazakhstan for the first time Jan. 30-31, reports the Astana Akimat (city administration) press service.

Andrew Parsons and Bakytzhan Sagintayev (L-R). Photo credit: primeminister.kz.

He began his visit at the capital’s Paralympic Training Centre, which was opened in July as part of the Tugan Zher (Motherland) state programme and is furnished with special sports equipment and facilities for people with varying degrees of ability.

“I have visited many centres in the world and few places have such beautiful facilities as your training centre for para-athletes and people with disabilities. Here, everything is built according to international standards for accessibility,” he said upon inspecting the centre.

Andrew Parsons visiting the Paralympic Training Centre. Photo credit: prosports.kz.

Later that day, the IPC head met with Kazakh Minister of Culture and Sports Arystanbek Mukhamediuly, Astana Deputy Akim (Mayor) Yermek Amanshayev, Ministry of Culture and Sport’s Committee for Sports and Physical Education Chairman Serik Sapiyev and Paralympians Zulfiya Gabidullina and Alexander Kolyadin.

“In my view, a country succeeds when it pays great attention to protecting the rights of people with disabilities,” said Parsons at the Jan. 30 meeting. “This visit is important for us, to support the National Paralympic Committee, parasport, para-athletes and infrastructure development. Kazakhstan is an important partner of the IPC, and it is this kind of support that leads to excellent results for your athletes.”

“Paralympic sport is the most striking way to prove to people that, despite the difficulties in life, people can make a significant contribution to their country’s development,” Astana Akim (Mayor) Bakhyt Sultanov told Parsons at their Jan. 31 meeting. “There is no greater pride than when the flag of Kazakhstan is raised at international competitions in which people with disabilities participate.”

On the second day of his visit, Parsons and Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev discussed the 2019 World Para Powerlifting Championships, to be hosted by the capital July 12-20, and Paralympic sports development in Kazakhstan more broadly. The former is an event organised by the IPC every four years, in which athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities compete. It will be an important stop for para-athletes’ qualification pathway to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Founded in 1989, the IPC is the global governing body for the Paralympic Movement and organises the Paralympic Games. It seeks to promote Paralympic values and create sports opportunities for people with disabilities, from beginner to elite level.



Kazakh alpinist leads expedition to climb K2

ASTANA – A seven-man expedition led by experienced Kazakh alpinist Vassiliy Pivtsov has set out from Askole, a Pakistani village near the city of Skardu, to climb K2. Located in the same country, the world’s second highest mountain after Mount Everest rises 8,611 metres above sea level. The expedition will last 60 days.

K2. Photo credit: The Atlantic.

The expedition includes Kazakh alpinists Tursunali Aubakirov, Dmitry Muraviev and Pivtsov; Russians Roman Abildaev, Artem Braun and Konstantin Shepelin, and Mikhail Danichkin from Kyrgyzstan.

Expedition group

Pivtsov, 43, is a highly experienced mountaineer who has ascended to the summits of the world’s 14 mountains above 8,000 metres, a feat considered among the ultimate goals for alpinists.

Vassiliy Pivtsov

The team will climb without oxygen, attempting to make history by ascending K2 in winter. The peak is the only one of the world’s 8,000ers still unclimbed in the season despite attempts in 1987, 2002 and 2012.

“The idea to climb K2 in winter did not leave me, since my last attempt was as part of the winter Polish expedition in the 2002-2003 season. Our team is working to always be fit. Over the past several years, we have been organising expeditions to our local six and seven thousanders to put us into conditions similar to those we might face at K2,” said Pivtsov.

The mountain, which rises above the Karakoram range spanning the borders of China, India and Pakistan, is among the world’s most challenging peaks particularly in winter, when weather conditions are harsh and unpredictable.

Many expeditions ended tragically. Only 306 climbers have reached the top and 84 died trying, compared to the more than 4,000 who have ascended Mount Everest.

Though it is lower than Everest, K2’s topography is considered tougher. The peak is known for its steep nature and diverse landscapes that mountaineers must pass to get to the base.

A second international team led by Spain’s Alex Txikon is attempting to climb K2. Last year, a Polish team, including Kazakh citizen Denis Urubko, failed to reach the summit following disagreements within the group and adverse weather conditions.



Female Kazakh driver to race in W Series 2019 Qualifiers, promote female F1 drivers

ASTANA – Kazakh racer Lyubov Andreyeva will compete against 60 women to participate in the single-seater racing championship W Series 2019.

Lyubov Andreyeva

Formula 1 (F1) has long been primarily men’s competition, which W Series aims to address by launching a new all-female motor racing series. The qualifiers’ driver line-up features women selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants from 30 countries, including China, Germany, India, Italy, Scandinavian countries, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“We designed W Series specifically to shine a light on female talent around the world,” said W Series Advisory Board Chair David Coulthard to Espn.com.

The series announced its list of 55 qualifying drivers Nov. 28 and recently named six additional drivers, featuring 22-year-old Andreyeva.

“After careful appraisal and deliberation, we’re delighted to be able to welcome Alessandra, Alexandra, Andreyeva, Francesca, Gosia and Inès to the W Series selection programme, which will now involve some 60 ambitious female drivers.… We plan to whittle those 60 qualifiers down so as to determine those who will then go forward to race in the inaugural W Series season…. We’re excited. Everything about W Series will be not only innovative but also rigorous,” said W Series Chief Executive Officer Catherine Bond Muir, reports Wseries.com.

Andreyeva is now preparing for a three-day on-and-off-track trial of psychometric profiling and multiple fitness and driving skill tests in January, which will be overseen by Red Bull Technical Director Adrian Newey, former McLaren Sporting Director Dave Ryan and former F1 drivers Coulthard and Alex Wurz. She will vie for a spot among 18 women who will ultimately compete in the championship kicking off May 3. There, drivers will race one another throughout six stages in 2018 Tatuus Formula 3 cars for the champion title and a $500,000 prize.

Lyubov Andreyeva

In a 2014 interview with The Astana Times, Andreyeva expressed her long-term plans to join F1 and “to do everything to achieve it.” She began racing at age nine, winning her first title two years later at the Kazakhstan Karting Championship, and trains in Moscow since her 2014 Formula Russia debut.



Kazakh junior hockey team prepares for group stage of 2019 World Junior Championship

ASTANA – The Kazakh junior hockey team will compete in Group B of the 2019 World Junior Championship, to be held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Canada. Kazakhstan is rejoining the top 10 national teams participating in the preliminary round of the competition for the first time since 2009, reports prosports.kz.

Photo credit: hcbarys.kz.

In the group stage, Kazakhstan will face off against Finland, the United States, Sweden and Slovakia. Only two countries from the group stage will advance to the quarterfinals.

Twenty-four hockey players from the Barys Junior Team have joined the expanded championship squad.

“This is a great success, to play at this level – not everyone gets such a chance. Therefore, it should be used to the full. We should play well, demonstrate our skills and have a good game,” said Snezhnye Barsy Junior Hockey Club defensive player Samat Daniyar.

“I haven’t fully realised that I will play there. This is a great event in the career of any hockey player; we will fight for the honour of the country. This happens once in a lifetime. The best young hockey players from all over the world will gather in Canada, and this will be remembered for many years,” added Snezhnye Barsy Junior Hockey Club goalkeeper Denis Karatayev.

On Jan. 5, 2009, the Kazakh junior team last played in a top division match at the World Championships in Ottawa, Canada, against Latvia, and were knocked down a rank to the first division. Over the next two years in the first division, the team ranked fourth.

In 2011, the International Ice Hockey Federation divided the first division into a stronger Group A and a weaker Group B. The winner of Group A could rejoin the top division. Kazakhstan was assigned to Group B.

In the same season, the Snezhnye Barsy Junior Professional Team was created as part of the Barys Hockey Club. The junior team began competing in the Junior Hockey League.

The first Junior World Championship in Group A for Kazakhstan was held in Vienna in the 2015-2016 season, where Kazakh hockey players competed against Latvian, Norwegian, German and Austrian players. The team took third place, retaining its place in the group.

The following season, the championship was held in the German city of Bremerhaven, where Kazakhstan took fourth place in the group, but after defeating Austria and Norway, Kazakhstan retained a place in Group A and did not descend to the lower division.

The 2017-2018 season was the last step of Kazakhstan’s return to the top division. The tournament was held in France in the Courchevel ski resort. The backbone of the Kazakh team were the Barys Junior Club and some Altai Junior Club players. In their final match, against France, Kazakhstan won, 5:2, and clinched their return to the top.



Kazakh boxer Kanat Islam to return to ring in March

ASTANA – Prominent Kazakh boxer Kanat Islam (25-0, 20 knockouts) will return to ring in March next year.

Kanat Islam

Islam is an ethnic Kazakh born in Xinjiang, China, where he started his boxing career as an amateur in 1997.

He won bronze medals at the Summer Olympics in 2004 and 2008, at the Asian Games in Doha in 2006 and the World Championship in Chicago in 2007. Islam started his professional career in 2012 after competing for the Astana Arlans professional boxing team of Kazakhstan in the World Series Boxing.

He currently lives and trains in Miami and signed a managerial contract with world’s top promoter Egis Klimas in February.

His last fight was in September last year, when he beat previously undefeated Canadian Brandon Cook with a knock out in ninth round.

Islam was scheduled to fight Mexican Fernando Carcamo June 23 in Los Angeles, but the fight was cancelled due to Islam’s leg injury.

“I got over my injury just recently. I started training. I am planning my return to the professional ring in March,” said Islam at a press briefing in Astana.

Islam also plans to become a promoter.

“With the support of a famous philanthropist Baurzhan Ospanov, we opened a promotion company Qazaq Promotions. It is helping our young boxers and has big goals. I plan to use my vast experience for the good of the country and growing generation. The world knows well about our boxing school and its traditions,” said Islam.

Qazaq Promotions hosted a professional boxing evening Dec. 16 to promote development of boxing in Kazakhstan and celebrate the country’s Independence Day.

Shortage of qualified managers, however, inhibits young boxers’ careers.

“Not everyone has an opportunity to work with someone like Bob Arum. To some extent, I will be a promoter for our fellow boxers. I know the professional boxing inside and out,” he said.

Islam does not consider wrapping up his boxing career.

“I am not planning to do that at the moment. I have a desire and most importantly strength and ability to continue making my fans happy with my wins and make my beautiful Kazakhstan heard at international arena. The important thing is to avoid injuries. I hope strongly that in 2019 my numerous fans witness great fights and I am able to accomplish my dreams and make goals a reality,” he said.



Kazakh driver Sultan Ibragimov makes impressive Formula 4 test debut

ASTANA – Fourteen-year-old Sultan Ibragimov will take part in the 2019 Formula 4 South East Asia Championship after completing the first test on the Sepang International Circuit Nov. 26-28 in Malaysia. He ran with the MERITUS.GP team during three days of testing.

The test races became the first stage to prepare for the new season following professional karting competitions.

Event organisers note Kazakhstan is building Future F1 heroes with Ibragimov’s “impressive inaugural F4 test” at Sepang.

“I am glad for this experience to take another step towards my dream – to participate in Formula 1,” he said after the races.

Ibragimov impressed the team with his determination and ability to read and understand racing car data and follow instructions from his engineers. His time also improved to a level that would have qualified him to start his first race in the middle of the grid during the penultimate round of the championship.

“Sultan Ibragimov set an impressive time during his inaugural FIA F4 test, despite having to acclimatise to the hot and humid tropical conditions. He drove the red number 7 MERITUS.GP Formula 4 car, clocking up over 500 kilometres on the 5.543 kilometre, challenging 15-corner and 6-straight track near Kuala Lumpur,” reads the press release.

He progressed well in the three days, learning the track and feeling comfortable with the car and environment. MERITUS.GP’s engineers are confident he can be a front-runner.

Ibragimov started with kart racing at age 10 and won several karting competitions.


“When I race at a speed of more than 100 km/h or overtake rivals on the tracks, I feel calm and get adrenaline and I really like this condition. I work hard during training sessions and follow my coach’s advice to achieve excellent results. I have no doubt that motor racing helps me to be more confident in everyday life. I am really proud of my achievements in my racing career,” Ibragimov told Alsport.kz.

Launched in 2014, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula 4 offers young drivers the opportunity to take the first step from karting into the world of single-seater racing.



FC Astana beats FC Kairat in Kazakhstan Premier League

FC Astana extended its lead in the Kazakhstan Premier League over Kazakhstan Professional Football League rival FC Kairat with a recent win in Almaty.

Photo credit: fckairat.com

The match was the 15th round between the two leaders and FC Kairat was favoured, having won the last two out of three matches. The third match ended in a draw.

The win placed Astana first in the Kazakhstan Premier League with FC Kairat eight scores behind.

The match also drew attention because FC Astana recently added a new head trainer.

FC Kairat’s Islambek Kuat scored first after the teams exchanged attacks in the first few minutes. Astana’s Djorde Despotovic evened the score a few minutes before halftime.

The second half was also an aggressive half with numerous penalties before Astana attacker Roman Murtasayev made a long-range goal, putting Astana ahead for good, 2:1.

“It is always difficult to play in Almaty, it is difficult to breathe, the field is not ours, nor supporters. But, thank God for our victory, because it is very important. We needed the victory. Because FC Kairat would able to catch up with us, if we lost. The whole team tried their best, worked very hard and reached the needed result – the reason we are here. This was the match that supporters like, that is of interest. The main thing is to justify all hopes of our supporters,” Murtazayev said.



Kazakh boxer victorious in Los Angeles

Kazakh boxer Meiirim Nursultanov recently knocked out Mexican Josue Obando in the sixth round of a fight at the Belasco Theatre in Los Angeles, California.

Photo credit: Main Events

The win was Nursultanov’s sixth victory in as many bouts since turning pro in November 2016. “Meiirim showed a good fight. One can think that being in America and gaining experience in professional boxing they make us fight against weak boxers, but that is not true. Even if the boxer has losses, then they are because of good boxers. For instance, Josue Obando had a fight against Matvey Korobov. It is for certain that many expected a fast victory from Nursultanov, but we had told him that the Mexican boxer is a hardy one, so a skillful fight was needed. Fast knockouts are cool, people like it, but in terms of prospects and plans for title fights, it is better to box within many rounds,” said Madiyar Akishev, Kazakh light middleweight boxer, who also trains in America.

Nursultanov’s next fight will be Aug. 4 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He will fight on the undercard of a bout between Russian Sergey Kovalev and Colombian Eleider Alvarez.



FC Astana to face Montenegro team in early UEFA Champions League match

ASTANA – The Swiss city of Nyon recently held a toss-up of the first qualifying round of the 2018/19 season UEFA Champions League. Kazakhstan’s champion FC Astana will face Montenegro’s champion FK Sutjeska Niksic. The first match will be July 10-11 in Astana, and a return match will be July 17-18 in Montenegro.

Photo credit: inform.kz.

If FC Astana beats Montenegro, Astana will face Danish champion FC Midtjylland. The second round matches will be July 24-25 and July 31-Aug. 1. If FC Astana reaches the second round, they will play at home.

“Even if our opponent is not well-known among Kazakhstan’s football fans, no one should have an illusion.We have a serious opponent. Everyone knows that FK Sutjeska Niksic gave one of the best Montenegrin footballers of all times Mirko Vucinic, who showed up in A.S. Roma and Juventus F.C. FK Sutjeska is the defending champion of Montenegro, and the national football team of the country recently beat the national football team of Kazakhstan in the qualifying round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a goal difference of 8-0. The Balkan football teams are always careful, aggressive and have technically trained players. The training staff of FC Astana are to learn more about the opponent in a short time, and I am sure of a two-match game. FC Astana has never played against a club from Montenegro, and the matches will be of great interest to spectators,” said Sayan Khamitzhanov, president of FC Astana.