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Kyrgyz athletes prepare for Olympics
Kyrgyz hope for success in London
By Asker Sultanov
BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan hopes to fare better at the 2012 Summer Olympics than four years ago.
The country won one silver and one bronze, both in men’s Greco-Roman wrestling, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Kyrgyzstan’s participation in the Olympics dates to 1952 in Soviet times. It began competing as an independent state at the 1994 Winter Olympics. In the independent era, Kyrgyzstan has won three medals in the Summer Olympics (one silver and two bronzes); it won its only gold medal during the Soviet era.
Hoping for 20 slots at the Olympics
Kyrgyz athletes train at a dedicated Olympic Training Centre in Bishkek, Almazbek Kasenov, the centre’s director, said.
“We are already preparing for the Olympics, and our main task now is to qualify athletes for it,” he said, adding that the centre covers 13 sports.
The country hopes its athletes will qualify for 20 events this year. Four athletes already have qualified: marathoner Yulia Arkhipova, judoist Chingiz Mamedov, marksman Ruslan Ismailov, and taekwondo fighter Rasul Abduraim.
The London Olympics will be the second for Abdurahim, who did not win a medal in Beijing.
“... I think that just reaching the Olympic Games is a success,” Abdurahim said.
“I was only 19, and I had a very experienced opponent from Germany,” he recalled. “I remember every mistake I made. … Now I am working on these mistakes, and I shall correct them.”
He even trained in Korea, the home of taekwondo, from September to December.
“Now, we are working out a strategy for Rasul, so that he can perform successfully at the Olympics,” Li Syn Gyu, Kyrgyzstan’s head taekwondo coach, said.
Kyrgyzstan would like to qualify in Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, weightlifting, boxing, judo, fencing, the pentathlon, rowing and bicycling.
Wrestling qualifiers begin in March; track and field qualifiers in February, Kasenov said.
“Even though we’ve qualified one person (Arkhipova) in track and field, we plan to qualify two more” at the qualifiers in Helsinki, Finland, he said. Boxing qualifiers will be in Astana.
Weightlifting qualifiers started during the World Championships in 2010 and 2011, where results determined how many Olympic slots each country would get. Upcoming continental championships will allow countries that didn’t earn spots through the World Championships a second chance at sending an athlete.
“Usually our weightlifting team takes first or second place in the qualifier,” Kasenov said.
In fencing, the top four teams in world rankings automatically go to the Olympics. After that, teams ranked fifth through 16th are evaluated, with the best team from each of four geographical zones getting in. Individuals can qualify thereafter.
“We plan to send two fencers to London,” Kasenov said.
A costly dream
The athletes depend on state financial support, Kasenov said, because travel and training are expensive.
“It costs $1,000-1,500 (46,900-70,400 KGS) altogether for someone to participate in a qualifying tournament,” he said. “And then he will also have to be sent to London.”
The government in 2011 allocated 80m KGS ($1.7m) to Olympic preparation, Kasenov said.
“This year we will be allocated only half that,” he said. “We have been given provisional figures, but we hope that the (parliament) deputies will support us and that we will obtain sufficient financial support this year.” The National Olympic Committee of Kyrgyzstan also lends “substantial” support, he said.
Kyrgyz wrestlers expect a strong showing; freestyle wrestling coach Anarbek Usenkanov discussed his team’s aspirations.
“We plan to take one medal for sure; it’s not important if it’s bronze, silver or gold,” he said. “If things go well, three medals.”
Among the 200 countries competing in the Olympics, “there will be strong and well-trained teams there from such states as China and Russia,” Usenkanov said. “It will be hard to compete with them, but you have to have faith, or you’ll get nowhere.”
Seven wrestlers who won domestic competitions will go to international qualifiers, he said.
Greco-Roman wrestler Daniyar Kobonov is expected to do well, said Aleksandra Korotkova, a spokeswoman for the State Agency for Physical Culture and Sport.
“We hope he brings back a medal,” Korotkova said. “In 2010, he won (74kg Greco-Roman wrestling) at the Asian Games in Guangzhou. (Kyrgyz sports observers) place most of their hope on our wrestlers. ... We hope (our team) brings back two medals.”