SAPPORO – The VIII Asian Winter Games are taking place in Sapporo, Japan between Feb. 19 and 26. This Asiad, as the games are also known, is the first since the 2011 Games held in Almaty and Astana, where Team Kazakhstan won a record number of medals, beating the traditional leaders of the Asian winter sports – Japan, China, and South Korea.
Kazakh athletes, among others, took part in the opening ceremony of the games on Feb. 19. Five-time national champion in cross-country skiing Yerdos Akhmadiyev carried the Kazakhstan’s banner at the opening Parade of Nations.
One-hundred-sixteen athletes are taking part in the Asiad. Team Kazakhstan will compete in numerous events. Kazakhstan’s most decorated athletes in Sapporo include Denis Ten (figure skating), Dmitry Reiherd, Julia Galysheva (freestyle) and Galina Vishnevskaya (biathlon).
“The Asian Games are one of the season’s key competitions for our country. Following the Winter Universiade in Almaty where our athletes showed excellent results, we understand that some of the athletes might be tired. Our delegation stays positive, and we hope for many great wins at the Asian Games,” said Chairperson of the Sports and Physical Education Committee at the Ministry of Sports and Culture of Kazakhstan Elsiyar Kanagatov.
On Feb. 20, the second day when medals were contested, Kazakh cross-country skier Yelena Kolomnina claimed silver in the 1.4 km individual sprint classical race. Speed skaters and short track skaters were close to climbing the podium but ultimately failed to do so. Also, the women’s ice hockey national team and men’s curling teams have started their performances in Sapporo.
The following day, the team won its first gold. Cross-country skier Rinat Mukhin triumphed in the men’s 15-kilometers race in free style. His teammate Kolomnina climbed the podium of the women’s 10-kilometers race, in free style too. Speed skater Denis Kuzin won silver in the men’s 1,000-meters race.
Following day three, Kazakhstan is ranked fourth in the informal medal ranking, following Japan (eight gold, eight silver, and seven bronze medals), South Korea (six gold, seven silver, and seven bronze medals) and China (five gold, three silver, and five bronze medals).
Team Kazakhstan’s premiere at a Winter Asiad took place in 1996 in Harbin. Over the period of the nation’s independence, Kazakh athletes have won 69 gold, 51 silver and 44 bronze medals, which is 164 in total. At the VII Winter Asian Games in 2011 in Astana and Almaty, team Kazakhstan took first place in the team standings, winning 32 gold, 21 silver and 17 bronze medals.