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  • Kazakhstan Mourns the Loss of Denis Ten


    (ATR) Denis Ten is being remembered at the 2018 Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships.

    Denis Ten remembered by taekwondo medalist Ruslan Zhaparov in Jeju (Kazakhstan NOC)
    Ruslan Zhaparov won the bronze medal in the 87kg+ weight category in Jeju and appeared at the medals ceremony in a T-shirt in memory of his countryman Ten, who died last Thursday at age 25 after being stabbed on the streets of Almaty.

    “This is an irreplaceable loss for the whole of Kazakhstan, the realization of which still does not fit into our hearts,” Zhaparov said in a statement released by the Kazakhstan NOC. “Here in Korea, many know about what happened. All are mourning with Denis's family and friends.”

    Ten’s funeral on Saturday filled the 5,000 seat Baluan Sholak Sports Palace in Almaty, the same venue where he won the gold figure skating medal at the 2011 Asian Winter Games.

    He went on to win silver at the 2013 World Championship and bronze at the 2015 Worlds before taking the bronze in Sochi at the 2014 Winter Olympics. He was the first athlete from his country to win an Olympic skating medal.

    A series of injuries hampered his preparation for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. Ten, a member of Kazakhstan’s minority Korean community, would fail to qualify for the long program after placing 27th out of 30 skaters in the short program in PyeongChang.

    Denis Ten at 2015 IOC session (Almaty 2022)
    Ten was an athlete ambassador for the Almaty 2022 Winter Olympics bid and was described as a “superstar” of the bid by its former vice chairman Andrey Kryukov.

    Despite Almaty losing to Beijing in the vote at the IOC session in Kuala Lumpur in 2015, he made his mark with an emotional appeal to IOC members that ended: “I am here for the thousands of young Kazakh athletes dreaming their own Olympic dreams.”

    His former colleagues at Almaty 2022 released a remembrance of him to Around the Rings. Here it is in its entirety:

    “There is an old saying about a person, popular in virtually every culture in the world, and it goes like this: His smile could light up a room...

    Those of us on the Almaty 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid team were blessed to have such a person as our friend and colleague. He made everything better. He made everyone he met feel special. He embodied the best qualities in all of us. He was our role model and our guiding light.

    His name was Denis Ten.

    Denis Ten with his medal at Sochi 2014 (IOC Media)
    Denis’ smile was brilliant indeed, and it will remain forever for the world to share in countless photos and videos. But for those of us fortunate enough to know Denis personally, there was much, much more behind that sweet smile.

    First and foremost, Denis was an athlete; and not just any athlete, he was an Olympian. Olympians are tough, disciplined and determined, yet they also embody the qualities of excellence, friendship and fair play. No one had to teach Denis these things, he lived them every single day of his incredible life. Yet, he also embodied something even more powerful, kindness. Kindness is one of those things that is hard to define, but you know it when you see it…maybe because, it is often so rare. It was easy to feel the kindness in Denis, it literally flowed from him and it enriched all who knew him.

    Denis was kind to everyone because he knew everyone had a story within them, often one of struggle and hardship. Denis was no exception and he remembered where he came from; that humility was the source of his incredible will and strength.

    Imagine an Olympic ice skater who learned to skate without a coach in a shopping mall skating rink. Imagine that same young skater competing in hand made skates (by his father) of cut up water bottles wrapped around his ankles for support. Now imagine that same young man sixteen years later winning an Olympic medal at the Sochi Games, and seventeen years later standing on a stage in front of the entire world asking for the 2022 Winter Games in Almaty.

    Denis Ten with Thomas Bach (Almaty 2022)
    Denis often said that hosting the Olympic Winter Games in Almaty was the biggest dream of his life, which is an amazing statement given the sheer number of dreams and plans he had for his life. We all hope that someday the Winter Games will come to Almaty, and when they do, it will partially happen because of Denis’ enduring Olympic legacy, his faith in his nation, and the memory and example of him as an exceptional human being.

    Denis Ten was a determined man destined to achieve great things, incredible things – and he did. Had he been given the blessing of a longer life, we all know that he could have achieved literally anything he set his mind to. How can we be so sure? Because Denis was unique: he believed that success was something that should be shared by everyone, and everyone deserved to succeed. Denis knew that a successful life isn’t purely about winning, a successful life is about the persistence of hope.

    His personal, positive philosophy is evident in his insightful words at Almaty 2022’s Final Presentation to the International Olympic Committee, in Kuala Lumpur on 31 July 2015. None of us could imagine that just three years later, we would use these same words to say goodbye to our dear friend – and yet in a most magical way, a Denis Ten type of way, they are hauntingly consoling for us all. He said:

    It is often said that history is written by the victors. And although that may be true, I think it demeans the Olympic spirit to focus only on winning as the singular definition of victory.

    All of us on this stage believe that Almaty 2022 has already achieved a tremendous victory for our country, just by being here in Kuala Lumpur with you.

    By making it this far, we feel victorious.

    By telling you our story, we feel victorious.

    Now perhaps you can see why he was our guiding light.

    Denis, we are forever thankful that you shared your wonderful story, and life, with us.


    Your Almaty 2022 Family”

    Written by Gerard Farek

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