Kazakh Athlete Tsyrulnikov Empowers Rural Youth Through Sports and Philanthropy

ASTANA – Novorybinka village in the Akkol district of the Akmola Region has become part of the unique 100 Villages project initiated by Sergey Tsyrulnikov, a Kazakh athlete with four Guinness World Records and an ambassador for the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

Tsyrulnikov arrived in Novorybinka village, where he provided children with new sports equipment. Photo credit: The Astana Times/Aruzhan Ualikhanova

In 2023, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev recognized Tsyrulnikov’s philanthropic efforts because they were carried out at the athlete’s own expense and with sponsorship funds from his friends, without government assistance.

The project idea originated from my background, as I am from a village and understand the challenges it faces. Issues like infrastructure and inventory shortages were evident, prompting me to extend aid to rural areas, recognizing their greater need for assistance and support,” said Tsyrulnikov in an interview with The Astana Times.

Initially, the project aimed to cover 100 villages in Kazakhstan. However, over the three years of its existence, through the efforts of Tsyrulnikov and his friends, the project has reached 120 villages nationwide, providing over 47,000 children with access to sports opportunities.

Sergey Tsyrulnikov warmly welcomes children from Novorybinka village in the Akkol district of the Akmola Region. Photo credit:The Astana Times/Aruzhan Ualikhanova

“I recognized the issue of inadequate or poor-quality sports equipment in rural areas, which prompted the initial efforts. Beginning with one village, the initiative expanded to encompass more communities, funded personally by me,” explained Tsyrulnikov.

He emphasized the project’s role as a social platform for rural youth, offering them exposure not only nationally but also internationally.

“By empowering villages, we are enabling children to engage in mass sports, contributing to the nation’s overall health,” he said.

Tsyrulnikov expressed pride in highlighting the success stories emerging from the project. In Kentau, providing air guns to a school resulted in two champions winning international championships. Similarly, a volleyball team equipped through the project became national champions in the East Kazakhstan Region.

“Our initiative extends beyond just providing equipment. We focus on educating our youth about our cultural and sporting heritage. We impart lessons on history, conduct masterclasses, and set examples for the youth to follow. Our goal is to nurture responsible citizens of our country,” said Tsyrulnikov.

The project gained popularity, attracting entrepreneurs who originated from villages and were familiar with the challenges. Tsyrulnikov’s initiative motivated them to contribute to supporting villages, and the project began to scale up.

“We have seen our initiative gain traction, attracting the support of numerous sponsors eager to contribute. Notably, Bisenali Bektursinov, the director of VBMARKET sports store, and Meirbek Nuguspanov, director of Aru Astana volleyball club, generously sponsored Novorybinka village. We call for more sponsors who have benefited from the country’s support in their development to step forward,” said Tsyrulnikov. 

“Investing in youth today means investing in Kazakhstan’s future,” he concluded. 

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