ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s first freestyle wrestling world champion, Rizabek Aitmukhan, received a triumphant return home, with fans, friends and family greeting him at Almaty International Airport on Sept. 21, reported Vesti.kz news agency.
The 19-year-old Aitmukhan became the first Kazakh world champion in freestyle wrestling in the 92-kilogram weight category this year in Belgrade, Serbia. He defeated Osman Nurmagomedov from Azerbaijan.
“Honestly, I still can’t understand what happened,” said Aitmukhan upon arrival. “I am very glad to bring joy to my fellow countrymen. This was my dream. I prayed to become a world champion. I realize that I became a part of history, everything went as planned. The Almighty gave this victory to the Kazakh people. It was very difficult. The opponents were not easy, but I really wanted to win. I had something to fight for.”
Aitmukhan’s nine-year-long career in freestyle wrestling has been filled with setbacks and unexpected turns.
An article on United World Wrestling (UWW) revealed an interesting fact about the champion, who comes from a 600-people village in the northern region of Kazakhstan.
According to UWW, young Aitmukhan volunteered at the World Championships back in 2019, wiping down the mat where the bouts took place between fellow wrestler from Kazakhstan Daulet Niyazbekov and Gazdhimurad Rashidov from Russia at the 65-kilogram final.
“In that final, Rashidov took a bleeding timeout. A volunteer, Rizabek Aitmukhan, ran out to clean the blood on the mat. Little did Niyazbekov or Kazakhstan know that the tall volunteer would go on to achieve what Niyazbekov failed to,” reads the article.
It also revealed that Aitmukhan did not like wrestling at the beginning and becoming a world champion seemed for him a distant possibility.
“My dad made me wrestle nine years ago. I didn’t want to train at all, but he made me do it. And then I liked it. And now, nine years later I am a world champion, the first one in Kazakh history. I think it’s not a bad result for a 19-year-old,” told Aitmukhan UWW.
Aitmukhan failed to win at the Asian and U20 World Championships, but quitting was never an option. His patience and persistence finally prevailed earning him the title he dreamed of.
“In the Asian championships final and in the U20 Worlds, there was that moment when I had to push myself. But that wasn’t enough. This time I felt the same during the match. I realized that if I didn’t do it now, I might not ever get this chance again. So, I tried my hardest and I did it,” he said.
By making history for Kazakhstan, Aitmukhan’s story now might serve as inspiration for anyone striving to fulfill their dreams. With a freestyle world champion title under his belt, Kazakhstan is now left seeking a world champion only in women’s wrestling.
The article also revealed that Aitmukhan is planning to move to the Olympic weight class of 97-kilogram.
“We’ve decided that it’s the last world championship in this weight class, next year I’ll move up to the Olympic weight of 97-kilograms. I’ll compete for an Olympic spot. I will try to become an Olympic champion,” said Aitmukhan.