Denis Ten: a great loss and an inspiration

The terrible news of the passing of Denis Ten, one of Kazakhstan’s most celebrated Olympians, has shocked Kazakhstan and the global community. It is difficult to accept that Denis has been taken from us at such a young age, especially under such tragic circumstances.

This is a loss not just for his parents and Kazakhstan, but for the entire sporting community.

The sorrow and sadness will never fully disappear. But let us pay tribute to our champion, who was an inspiration to many aspiring young athletes.

Denis Ten was the first figure skater from Kazakhstan to win an Olympic medal when he secured bronze at Sochi 2014. His diligence, determination and passion for the sport was clear for all to see.

He showed that hard work can eventually pay off. Very few people would have predicted that an ice skating athlete from Kazakhstan would ever stand on a podium with a medal around his neck.

Yet through his dedication and commitment to his sport, Denis became the first skater from Kazakhstan to win an International Skating Union competition at the 2008–09 ISU Junior Grand Prix event in Belarus, aged just 16.

Four years earlier, at the age of 12, Denis competed with adult skaters at the Kazakhstan Championships and won. He then achieved even greater success by winning the Olympic bronze medal in 2014, as well as a silver and a bronze medal during the world championship in 2013 and 2015. He became a national icon in Kazakhstan and was admired all over the world.

Despite his successes as an athlete, Denis did not forget about his studies. He received a diploma from the Academy of Sports and Tourism in Kazakhstan, later enrolling and graduating from the Oil and Gas Institute.

Tributes have been pouring in from all over the world following the tragic news of his death. The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev led the tributes highlighting that Denis’s “outstanding achievements glorified our country and helped popularise sport among youth. Denis was not only a prominent athlete, whose talent was recognised and revered in many countries of the world, but also a man of marked individuality, a true patriot.” President Nazarbayev also instructed high officials to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime would be brought to justice.

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, has described Denis “as a warm personality and a charming man”. American figure skater Adam Rippon tweeted that Denis “was so kind to everyone and a huge inspiration to me and so many other people”. The International Skating Union President commented that “Denis Ten was a very talented skater and a true ambassador for figure skating”.

Denis captured the hearts of many Kazakhs as well as sports fans around the world. Thousands of people have paid tribute to our hero across the country by lighting a candle and laying flowers and attending the services in Astana and Almaty on July 21.

During his short life, Denis has made a significant contribution to the development of figure skating and Kazakh sport in general. He was, and always will be, a great role model for the youth of Kazakhstan.

Thank you, Denis, for everything you have done for the country and for being a great champion. You will be sorely missed.