Maria Agapova to be first Kazakh woman to compete in UFC world promotion 

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan’s first amateur mixed martial arts (MMA) world champion Maria Agapova has been invited to the second main fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series July 30 in Las Vegas. The winner will sign a contract with the world promoter.

Agapova (6-0) will meet Tracy Cortes (5-1), Arizona’s (United States) freestyle wrestling and grappling champion.

“We were going to do this with my team for a very long time. I hope that I will become the first girl from Kazakhstan to get into the UFC. Dana White, salam alaykum! Akhmat (Agapova’s MMA fight club) is strength! Kazakhstan go ahead!” Agapova told vesti.kz.

“I could not even dream of it. I am glad that I was accepted into the friendly multinational family of the Akhmat Pavlodar club. It was here that I revealed myself both as a person and as an athlete. I am happy that I have not listened to anyone, only the call of my own heart, and left boxing to (fight in) MMA. Never be afraid to change something in your life. Do what you like and do not listen to anyone! Follow your dream!” she added, reported prosports.kz.

Agapova is the first Kazakh fighter to win the amateur MMA World Championship and World League Heroines in China. She began her professional career in 2015. Agapova participated in the World Fighting Championship Akhmat Fights (WFCA), Russian Fight Nights Club (FNG) and Brave Combat Federation (BCF) tournaments, meeting fighters such as Yulia Kutsenko, Darya Kutuzova and Yulia Litvintseva.



Eight-year-old Kazakh player wins rapid chess gold at French Chess Rapid, Blitz Open

NUR-SULTAN – Eight-year-old Kazakh chess player Sauat Nurgaliyev took the rapid chess gold at the French Chess Rapid and Blitz Open tournament June 7, the Kazakh Chess Federation reports.

Photo Credit: Kazakh Chess Federation.

Nurgaliyev was the youngest among the tournament participants and the only participant from Kazakhstan. He won nine out of his 14 games, once beating 22-year-old French FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation) master Dudognon Thibault.

Now, Nurgaliyev is the youngest candidate for master of sports in chess in Kazakhstan, according to his coach, Yerzhan Shakenov. Nurgaliyev’s goal is to reach the grandmaster level. His age hasn’t prevented him from beating serious rivals, says President of the Astana Chess Federation Ablay Tostambekov.

“Most of Sauat’s rivals were older and more experienced than him, but this did not make our champion shy. He played an excellent game, having managed to beat serious rivals and deservedly won gold in fast chess,” he said after the game as reported by the Kazakh Chess Federation.

Nurgaliyev received the monthly title of the best chess player in the world in the under-nine-years-old category from FIDE May 18, according to his mother, Dana Nurgaliyeva.

“The world ranking is updated every month. This month we decided to check the rating list and were pleasantly surprised that Sauat was in first place in the up-to-nine-years-old category, in which there are more than 30,000 chess players from around the world. The FIDE rating reflects the strength of the game of chess player. The higher the rating, the higher the skill and complexity of the game,” she said. To maintain this ranking Nurgaliyev needs to participate in chess tournaments each month and continue to win.

Nurgaliyev is also the champion of Kazakhstan, the champion of Nur-Sultan, the vice-champion of Asia among schoolchildren and the winner of the Astana Open international chess tournament of 2018. He has won several international competitions in Spain, Switzerland and Armenia.

The French Chess Rapid and Blitz Open championship took place in Le Blanc-Mesnil, France, June 6 and 7.



Kazakh weightlifters win 2019 British International Open medals

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh weightlifters Denis Ulanov and Ilya Ilyin won gold and silver medals, respectively, at the June 7-9, 2019 British International Open weight-lifting tournament at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. The tournament is a qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Denis Ulanov. Photo credit: olympic.kz.

Ulanov, a bronze medallist at the 2016 Olympics, competed in the weight category up to 81 kilogrammes and Ilyin, the four-time world champion, in 96 kilogrammes.

Ulanov won gold with a score of 325 kilogrammes combined from 145 kilogrammes in the snatch and 180 kilogrammes in the jerk. His closest rival from the United Kingdom’s team finished the tournament with 304 kilogrammes.

Ilya Ilyin. Photo credit: sports.kz.

Ilyin won a silver medal reaching 165 kilogrammes in the snatch and 185 kilogrammes in the push (in sum 350). Ukrainian weightlifter Kirill Pirogov won the gold medal, beating Ilyin by one kilogramme with the result of 351 kilogrammes. The bronze medallist of the tournament was British weightlifter Edmond Avetisyan, who reached 329 kilogrammes.

“I have not participated (in tournaments) for several years, [and now had] three months of active training. I started to get in shape. I began to feel my strength that I had before… Many problems, shortcomings, because for a long time I was not on the global arena, these shortcomings affected the third attempt… Also, I didn’t feel the (sports) platform for a long time, for several years, and, therefore, I missed it, I couldn’t get to the end a little bit of a second. But this is nothing terrible – this is sports, these are competitions. I am inspired by the support of the entire country, my team, family, and the First President of Kazakhstan,” said Ilyin.

The open competition consisted of several competitions, including the British Senior Weightlifting Championships, British Para Powerlifting Championship, BWL British Masters Championships and the British Development Open.



Kazakh tennis player Bublik loses to Lopez in Mercedes Cup main draw

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh professional tennis player Alexander Bublik lost to Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez June 10 for a spot in the men’s single main draw of the Mercedes Cup Stuttgart Open in Germany.

Photo credit: tennis-tourtalk.com.

The first set of the qualifying match started June 9. Lopez led 7-5, 6-4 when the second set was suspended the following day due to rain.

Bublik defeated Hiroki Moriya of Japan June 8 in the first match of the qualifying stage. He needed just 52 minutes to win 6-0, 6-3.

The Mercedes Cup, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour 250 series tournament, has a prize pool of $824,764. In addition, the winner receives a Mercedes-Benz car.

The Stuttgart Open was first held in 1898. The tournament, which changed from clay to grass in 2015, opened this year’s grass court season. The corporate sponsor has motivated the competitors with a new vehicle since 1979.

As of June 10, 21-year-old Bublik ranks 85th in singles. He clinched three titles in this year’s ATP Challenger Tour and advanced to the second round of the French Open, firing 17 aces and winning 62 per cent of the total points played.

Bublik lost in the second round of the tournament, falling to Austrian Dominic Thiem, the world’s fourth seed, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5. Yet he showed himself to be a strong player, serving underhand twice in the first two sets and winning both points.

“It was very difficult. For me, he is a challenging opponent, because there were almost no draws. He did not give me a rhythm at all and he did it well,” said Thiem, reported sports.kz.

“At this tournament, he made a certain step forward,” said honoured coach of Russia Boris Sobkin to GoTennis.ru.

The ATP Challenger Tour is a series of professional tennis competitions. In recent years, more than 150 events (178 in 2008) have been held annually in more than 40 countries, including those where tennis is a new sport. 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.



Golovkin returns to ring with fourth-round knockout of Rolls

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh professional boxer Gennady Golovkin (GGG) knocked out Canadian Steve Rolls in the fourth round of his June 9 DAZN debut in front of a crowd of 12,357 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Photo credit: DAZN USA Twitter Page.

It was Golovkin’s left hook to the top of Rolls’ head, followed by another to the jaw, that sent Rolls face-first to the floor with 51 seconds remaining in the fourth round. The referee counted Rolls out, and the fight was stopped.

Golovkin, 37, with a 39-1-1 (35 by knockout) record, is a former unified middleweight world champion with World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council, International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organisation titles. CompuBox stats for DAZN indicate that Golovkin landed 62 of 223 total punches (27.8 percent) in the super middleweight fight.

The previously undefeated Rolls, 35, has 19 wins (10 by knockout) and one loss and was on the 2009 and 2010 Canadian National Boxing Teams. He landed 38 of 175 total punches (21.7 percent).

“I feel great, I feel like a new baby,” said Golovkin in a post-fight interview on his performance under new trainer Johnathon Banks. “Thank you so much to everyone who supports me, I hope you enjoyed the fight.”

Photo credit: DAZN USA Twitter Page.

Golovkin’s June 9 fight was his first in nine months following his majority-decision loss in September to Mexican professional boxer and DAZN fighter Canelo Álvarez.

“Everybody knows,” said Golovkin on plans for his next opponent. “I’m ready for September, I’m ready for Canelo. Bring him. If you want a ‘Big Drama Show,’ just tell him.”

Golovkin signed a three-year, six-fight deal with DAZN worth $100 million since his last fight with Álvarez, and his upcoming fight in September will be available to DAZN subscribers in all its markets, including Kazakhstan.

“Gennady Golovkin is a generational talent with international appeal,” said DAZN Group Executive Chairperson John Skipper at a March 11 press conference in Los Angeles. “The third fight between Gennady and Canelo is a fight that fans want to see.”



Kazakhstan to play in Group B with Finland, Russia, US at 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan’s national ice hockey team will play in Group B, including the reigning champions Finland, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and the United States, at the 2020 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship. The matches will be held at Zurich’s 11,200-seat Hallenstadion May 8-24, reports IIHF.com.

Photo credit: icehockey.kz.

The IIHF announced the groups for the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship May 28 after organisational meetings in Bratislava, Slovakia.

“Canada, the recent finalist and first-ranked nation in the 2019 IIHF Men’s World Ranking, leads the seeding in Group A in Lausanne that also includes Sweden, the world champion from 2017 and 2018, as well as the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Denmark, Belarus and Great Britain,” its official website reports. Group A will play at Lausanne’s new 9,500-seat arena that will also host the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Kazakhstan hosted the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship for the first time April 29-May 5 at the capital’s Barys Arena. The country took the lead in Division IA standings with 14 points, followed by Belarus with 10 points. Both countries were consequently promoted to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

“We are very happy, congratulations to Kazakhstan that the team is finally back in the top division,” said Kazakhstan’s National Team Head Coach Andrei Skabelka at the conclusion of the championship in Nur-Sultan. “The game against Belarus was the best game we had in this tournament. We had many opportunities and a very good start but, still, the problem was that we didn’t capitalise on our chances. We want to be better in this aspect.”

“We will be setting ourselves the highest goals, of course, but we will see,” Skabelka told Icehockey.kz on playing in Group B. “A lot depends on the participating teams. I will say that a very powerful (U.S.) National Hockey League has landed in this championship. It is clear that the levels of the teams are different.”

The IIHF is a worldwide governing body for ice hockey and inline hockey based in Switzerland, and the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship will be the tenth hosted in Switzerland since 1935.



Yulia Putintseva wins first WTA singles title at Nuremberg Cup

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh professional tennis player Yulia Putintseva won her first Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) singles title May 25 at Germany’s Nuremberg Cup, reports Wtatennis.com.

Yulia Putintseva. Photo credit: wtatennis.com.

Top-seeded Putintseva defeated Slovenian professional tennis player Tamara Zidanšek 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in just under two-and-a-half hours.

“It is unbelievable, honestly. I enjoyed myself and fought until the end. That’s what helped me to win. It was a great fight, a great game for the final,” Putintseva said on-court after the match. “There was a little bit of luck because I ran and hoped that the ball was going to go in. When I was out of position, I ran and hit some incredible shots. My character is to keep fighting.”

The second set, when Zidanšek led 6-4, 1-0 and Putintseva faced a break point on serve, was a key moment in the match.

“Zidanšek’s forehand clipped the top of the net and, rather than dribbling over to the Kazakh’s side for another break, fell back on the Slovenian’s side of the net for deuce. Putintseva held on, and Zidanšek lost serve for the first time in the second set in the next game. Though she drew level at 3-3 with her first break of the set, the Kazakh broke to love in the next game to restore a lead which she would hardly relinquish,” Wtatennis.com described the final.

“It is my best result this year, so, no matter what happened today, I played well,” Zidanšek said on-court after the match. “I am going to go from Nuremberg with my head held high.”

Previously at the 2019 Nuremberg Cup, Putintseva defeated German professional tennis player Anna-Lena Friedsam 7-5, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2) in a three-hour, 21-minute May 23 quarterfinal, the longest in the WTA Tour season, and Romanian professional tennis player Sorana Cîrstea 6-4, 7-5 in a one-hour, 51-minute May 24 semifinal. “The (semifinal) result avenges Putintseva’s loss to the Romanian in the quarterfinals of this tournament in 2017,” Wtatennis.com noted.

Putintseva now ranks 28th in the world, one spot off of her career high achieved in February 2017. Representing Kazakhstan since 2012, she is a two-time French Open quarterfinalist and is participating in the May 20-June 9 French Open.



Annual BI Marathon grows from corporate race to international charity event

NUR-SULTAN – The annual BI Marathon, which has been promoting healthy lifestyles, charitable giving and social responsibility in the Kazakh capital since 2016, was in late April certified by the Association of International Marathons and Distant Races (AIMS/IAAF). This year’s race, on May 26, with its new status, drew 250 foreign guests from 26 countries, as well as more than 7,600 runners from regions in Kazakhstan.

Photo credit: BI Marathon Facebook page.

“[W]e will feel a significant effect from the inclusion in the international calendar next year. Inveterate marathon participants who combine sport with tourism, travel to new tracks and are interested in a fast and flat marathon, will visit our city for sure,” Marathon Director Alexei Sidorenko told kursiv.kz.

The route this year kept mainly to city parks and the Yessil River embankment. The start and finish line was at the Triathlon Park.

“Usually marathons are held within the city and in this regard many streets are blocked. We have involved only two,” Sidorenko said. Turan and Saraishyk streets were blocked for the race.

“At the same time, we managed to demonstrate urban beauty… We managed to get positive feedback from the runners about the work of volunteers, musical accompaniment throughout the route and the beauty of the route. The views opening along the course contributed to the emotional uplift of the runners,” he added.

BI directs money from the marathon participation fee to its BI-Zhuldyzai charity fund. With the 26 million tenge (US$68,412.50) collected from last year’s race, the fund opened the Zhuldyzai rehabilitation centre in Atyrau. The centre provides consultations, rehabilitation and surgery for children with cerebral palsy.

The oldest participants of the fourth marathon were 75-year-old Dina Dzhandarbekova and Talgat Zharmukhametov. Dzhandarbekova, a lecturer at the Kazakh University of Technology and Business, said that she wants to show her students the importance of leading an active lifestyle.

L-R: Talgat Zharmukhametov and Dina Dzhandarbekova. Photo credit: BI Marathon Facebook page.

Many participants beat their results from last year. Kudaibergen Zeinollaev won among men in the 21.1 kilometre race with a time of 1:13:45. Daria Starostina came in first among women in the same distance at 1:33:54.

The absolute winners of the 42.2 kilometre distance, the marathon’s longest race, were Bazarbay Dautaliev among men, crossing the finish with a time of 2:34:19, and Zhanerke Nurbaikyzy among women at 3:43:13.

The distances varied for age groups and fitness levels. There were 2 kilometre races for kids under 14 years old, 5 kilometres for participants between 14 and 16, 10 kilometres for participants older then 16, and 21 kilometres and 42.2 kilometres for participants over 18. Athletes running the 10-kilometre race could do just Nordic walking, while corporate participants could run a relay race.



Nur-Sultan to host 2021 World Combat Games

NUR-SULTAN – The Kazakh capital has been chosen to host the 2021 World Combat Games, the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) announced recently.

Photo credit: ministryofsport.com.au.

The games usually feature 15 Olympic and non-Olympic sports, such as aikido, boxing, fencing, judo, ju-jitsu, karate, kendo, kickboxing, Muay Thai, pankration, sambo, savate, sumo, taekwondo, wrestling and wushu. The May 3-9, 2021 programme has yet to be confirmed.

“We are delighted to have been awarded the 2021 World Combat Games,” said Kazakh Martial Arts Association President Karim Massimov. “Combat sports and martial arts are extremely popular throughout Kazakhstan and it is sure to be a wonderful celebration of sports.”

Photo credit: gaisf.sport.

GAISF and the local organising committee signed the host city agreement May 10 during the GAISF General Assembly at Australia’s SportAccord Convention. The capital was selected for its modern facilities and the country’s passion for combat sports and martial arts.

“Creating a platform for our members to showcase their disciplines through multi-sport games is one of GAISF’s main priorities,” said newly-inaugurated president Raffaele Chiulli. “We are excited to be working with the team from Nur-Sultan and the launch of the World Combat Games.”

The city’s main venues, the Martial Arts Palace, Alau Ice Palace and national velodrome, are in close proximity to each other and will be complemented by a festival plaza offering an all-in-one experience. The Martial Arts Palace, designed for major international competitions, is in the final stages of construction and will open this summer.

Next year, the organisers will launch the World Combat Games Festival, incorporating Kazakhstan’s 14 regions in a country-wide celebration.

Established in 1967, GAISF is the umbrella organisation for Olympic and non-Olympic international sports federations, multi-sport game organisers and sports-related international associations. The World Combat Games were most recently held in Saint Petersburg in 2013, as this year’s competition in Chinese Taipei was cancelled amid plans to revise the format. Starting in 2021, the event will be held every four years.



Kazakh figure skater Tursynbayeva to appear as ‘black raven’ next season

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh figure skater Elizabet Tursynbayeva will appear next year in her short programme as a black raven to the music of Camille Saent-Saёns’ “Dance Macabre,” the skater recently announced on her Instagram account.

Elizabet Tursynbayeva. Photo credit: Reuters.

‘Dance Macabre’ (Dance of Death in French) is dedicated to the legend that every Halloween calls for the dead to dance as the death of the fiddle. South Korean Yuna Kim, Kazakh Denis Tan and Russian Sergei Voronov have previously used the piece for their short programmes.

Tursynbayeva’s choreography coach Daniil Gleikhengauz posted a video on the skater’s Instagram account April 1 of her completing a triple Axel during practice. The jump, with a base value of eight points, is considered to be the most difficult allowed in female skaters’ short programmes; it is followed by the triple Lutz (5.9 points).

The triple Axel is difficult for skaters to land, as it technically involves three and a half rotations compared to the three rotations of other triple jumps. During the 2018 competition season, only Japanese skater Rika Kihira and Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva were able to make the jump.

Earlier this year, Tursynbayeva became the first woman to successfully land a quadruple jump, doing a quad-Salchow in her 2018 World Championship free skate. The jump, coupled with a clean skate in her free programme, earned her a silver medal, second only to 2018 Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova. The gold medalist skated both programmes cleanly and did the difficult Lutz-loop jump combination, while Tursynbayeva made a mistake in her short programme. Tursynbayeva’s placement has granted Kazakhstan three quotas in next year’s women’s World Championship in Montreal, Canada.

Last season, Tursynbayeva changed coaches from Canadian Brian Orser to Russian Eteri Tutberidze. She had previously trained with Tutberidze, but was forced to switch when Russia temporarily banned state-employed coaches from coaching foreign skaters before the 2014 Olympics. According to Tursynbayeva’s International Skating Union (ISU) interview, the change has allowed her to climb in ranking from 11th place at the 2017 World Championship to second place at the 2018 World Championship.

Kihira will challenge Tursynbayeva’s technical advantage next season, as the former can do a triple Axel and plans to include a quad-Salchow in her free skate. She will also be pursued by Russian junior (soon to become senior) skaters Anna Scherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, who have both performed the quad-Salchow and quad-Lutz in junior competitions. Trusova has also completed a quad-toe loop.