ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s Association of National Sports awarded the exceptional athletes who have achieved success on the national and international levels in 10 national sports nominations at the 10th anniversary Altyn Tugyr (Golden Foundation) awards on Dec. 21 in Astana.
The National Sports Association, launched in 2004, was set up to promote traditional Kazakh game heritage among 10 sports, including togyzkumalak (nine pebbels), baige (race) kusbegilik (eagle training), kokpar (goat pulling), audaryspak (Kazakh wrestling), zhamby atu (archery on horses), tenge ilu (picking up coins on a horse), sadak atu (traditional archery), asyk atu (a board game with bones of a knee sheep joint) and joryq at sporty (horse riding).
President of the National Sports Association Islambek Salzhanov highlighted the organization’s achievements during his opening speech.
“In 2023, our athletes participated in 12 international competitions and won 95 medals, 35 of which were gold. The number of national sports federations has increased from six to ten federations,” said Salzhanov.
“In 2024, the Association will focus on sports training of the national team in all sports,” he added, highlighting the importance of preparation for the upcoming fifth World Nomad Games, which will be held in Kazakhstan’s capital in September next year.
Yerlan Koshanov, the chairman of the Mazhilis, the lower house of the Parliament, outlined the parliament’s role in promoting Kazakh traditional sports games.
“I believe that supporting national sports means supporting the past, the present and the future of the nation. We pay great attention to this area within the walls of the parliament. Only recently, a draft law on preserving the Kazakh breed of horses and increasing its growth was discussed. If this law is adopted, there will be an opportunity to grow and multiply sports-oriented horse breeds in the country, including Adai and Kostanai horse breeds,” said Koshanov.
“As you might know, a year ago, the law on the preservation and promotion of national dog breeds was adopted. We have approved the law to preserve tobet (tufted) dog breed. We are enacting such laws for the first time in the history of our country,” he added.
The award was also an inspiration for wearing traditional dress, eating national food, dancing, music, and masterclasses. Visitors could drink kymyz (fermented horse milk), eat bauyrsak (puffy fried bread) and play asyk or try their strength in archery.
Eagle training, also called kusbegilik, was once an important way of obtaining food through hunting. Today it is a traditional activity that requires a bond with the birds and a commitment to breeding, training and flying them.
According to Yeltai Muptekeev, a kusbegilik referee and senior coach in the Almaty Region, events such as Altyn Tugyr help to promote the traditional eagle training among Kazakhs.
“Kusbegilik or eagle training art is developing well in our country. Many international tournaments are held at least three times a year. Over the past twenty years, the rise of the kusbegilik has been good. This year we have established the International Kusbegilik Federation. It includes five countries: Kazakhstan, Türkiye, Mongolia, the Kyrgyz Republic and Russia,” said Utekeyev.
Zhanat Kaimuldin, the winner of the Altyn Tugyr prize in the Kazakh traditional game togyzkumalak also known as “chess of the steppes”, said the game is gaining recognition on a global scale, extending its reach even beyond Central Asia.
“Togyzkumalak is gaining popularity even abroad. Over 20 countries participated in the last World Championship, including Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Mongolia, Antigua and Barbuda, Colombia, the Czech Republic, France and Great Britain,” said Kaimuldin.
“I am coming to this event as one of the best players. Speaking of my accomplishments in togyzkumalak this year, I became the Asian champion and Kazakhstan’s champion in classics and took second place in the blitz category in both tournaments,” said Kaimuldin of his accomplishments.
In 2020, togyzkumalak was included in the UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on a joint proposal by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Türkiye.