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Serik Sapiyev says he fought for his country at Olympics
Gold medallist saw sacrifices pay off
By Gulmira Kamziyeva
ALMATY – Gold-medal boxer Serik Sapiyev called the quadrennial Olympic Games the most psychologically challenging competition.
“Because every country is trying to take the gold medal,” said Sapiyev, who won the men’s welterweight (69kg) division and was recognised for technical proficiency during the just-finished London Olympics.
That added pressure makes for added pleasure when one ends up standing on the podium, though.
“There was a feeling of satisfaction, of joy for myself and my country, joy that I had justified the hopes of the fans,” Sapiyev said. “I was glad I had won, that I was getting an award, that everyone in the stadium was standing and listening to the Kazakhstani national anthem.”
Kazakhstan won 13 medals at this year’s Olympics, staging an impressive 12th-place performance in the medal standings.
Winning athletes include
Gold medallists Olga Rypakova, women’s triple jump; Serik Sapiyev, men’s welterweight (69kg) boxing; Alexandre Vinokourov, men’s bicycling road race; Ilya Ilyin, men’s 94kg weightlifting; Zulfiya Chinshanlo, women’s 53kg weightlifting; Maiya Maneza, women’s 63kg weightlifting; Svetlana Padobedova, women’s 75kg weightlifting;
Silver medallist Adilbek Niyazymbetov, men’s light heavyweight (81kg) boxing;
And bronze medal winners Ivan Dychko, men’s super-heavyweight (+91kg) boxing; Marina Volnova, women’s middleweight (75kg) boxing; Danyal Gajiyev, men’s 84kg Greco-Roman wrestling; Akzhurek Tantarov, men’s 66kg freestyle wrestling; and Guzel Manyurova, women’s 72kg freestyle wrestling.
The team was to meet with President Nursultan Nazarbayev August 17.
While being an Olympic athlete carries some glory, it also takes a lot of sacrifice.
“I had to give up seeing much of my family, because I was away from home for nine to ten months a year,” said Sapiyev, 28, who has one daughter, but dreams of having many children – at least five.
His family was among those watching a broadcast of his bouts at a public viewing in Karaganda. “It turns out they relayed my bout to the town centre, and she cheered with the rest of them,” he said of his daughter Akku.
Sapiyev, who started boxing at age 11, saw his years of practice pay off as he won the Val Barker Trophy, awarded by the International Amateur Boxing Association to the best Olympic boxer in terms of style.
“Dad advised my brother and me to take up boxing rather than anything else. … Mom didn’t object. You see, our parents were miners and were away at work from morning till evening; that’s why they sent us to boxing. Our mom was glad we were doing something useful, not just hanging about the streets,” Sapiyev said of his boxing start.
The Kazakhstani boxing contingent was one of the country’s fortes (weightlifting is another) and justified the hopes placed in it, said Myrzagali Aitzhano, the Olympic boxers’ chief trainer.
“On the whole, the 2012 Olympics were a success for Kazakhstan, and the boxers achieved quite good results,” Aitzhano said. “We are in such a happy mood now that we have done so well that we have forgotten all the difficulties.”
The boxing team is basically on a break now, but training will pick back up in the middle of September as the athletes start to prepare for November’s national championship. After that, training for the world championship will start.
Although training Olympic athletes presents challenges, “when you see the result, and our result was not at all bad, all the difficulties are forgotten,” Aitzhano said.