The Power of Asia: Kazakhstan
For this week’s ‘The Power of Asia’ series, Badminton Asia spoke with 2 members of the Kazakhstan Badminton Federation: Danil Pak (Secretary General) and Askar Ormanov (Head Coach). Similar to the previous interviews we held before with other Member Associates like Myanmar, UAE, Nepal, we had the chance to ask them about several topics including badminton’s growth in Kazakhstan, how their Federation has been affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic, and what their goals are for the future.
Danil Pak is the Secretary General of the Kazakhstan Badminton Federation. Mr. Pak has played sports for over 20 years and cares deeply about the development of sport in the country. Over the years he’s been involved in various sports and training courses, with his goal in the future is to take even more courses including international, coaching and manager seminars to further improve his knowledge and understanding of sports in general. We asked him questions regarding the state of badminton in Kazakhstan. Excerpts from the interview:
How is badminton in the country?
Right now badminton is growing. We have a new president of the Kazakhstan Badminton Federation, we have more children’s sport, we’re opening new branches in our regions, and we are trying to open new training courses. In 2021 we want to open all of these things in Shymkent, one of the biggest and most developed cities in Kazakhstan, where there are a lot of badminton athletes.
Next year we’re planning on opening a training hall for our players. Additionally, every quarter we plan on developing training courses. We already have one training seminar in 2020 for coaches, judges, and we hope to try to do this every quarter.
In addition to opening new training courses and sports halls, the Kazakhstan Badminton Federation plans to strengthen their new regulations, for example for their coaching council, anti doping rules, and a new criteria for selecting athletes for their national team. A lot of plans to grow are currently in motion within the Federation.
Askar Ormanov, the Head Coach, expands on the current progress of badminton in the country. Mr. Ormanov has been a coach for over 20 year, and has seen success within his players. The players he’s coached have won national championships. To further improve, he and along with a few other coaches, participated in Badminton Asia (BA) courses, specifically the ‘level 1’ course, a pilot project. It was called a ‘pilot project level 1’, where he got his license from BA and Badminton World Federation (BWF). Then after 2 years he took part in level 2 courses, and last year completed the level 3 course.
The training hall that Mr. Pak mentioned earlier is in progress to open next year. The hall includes 7 courts, 1 gym, 1 hall, 2 smaller gyms and a hotel. However the process has not been an entirely smooth and easy one. According to Mr. Ormanov, they encountered many roadblocks to have it opened. Previously, they practiced in a different hall however 2 years ago it was given to wrestling, the most popular sport in Kazakhstan. “We just moved around to different halls.” he said. “But one year ago, we bought land, and we hope it becomes a national training center, the biggest in Central Asia. We hope we can improve badminton in Kazakhstan, and try to open new clubs in other cities.”
But despite the issues, badminton steadily has grown and for the first time this year, they hosted a Eurasian Badminton League. “There are 4 countries who currently take part in this” he says, “Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. And we hope next year more countries participate in the competitions like Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia.” Mr. Ormanov also mentions that Badminton Asia has supported them by giving them shuttlecocks for the event.
He continues to say that the development of badminton in the country is a step by step process; one that takes time and effort from everyone involved. “I’ve been a coach for 10-11 years and when I just started our budget was very small, $2-3,000 every year for the national team. This year our budget is $80,000. We hope that we can improve step by step.” he tells us. It has not been an easy one, as they still face a lot of problems such as the shortage of coaching staff but they have made great progress from the years before.
“2 years ago, it was our first time going to the youth olympic games, and our player was #6 in the BWF world junior rankings. In 4 years, we hope to qualify for the Olympics. Now we have 2-3 top players who can compete at the world level and with them we can achieve this.”
However in 2020, much of that progress had to be put on hold as the world was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic, and Kazakhstan is no exception. Mr. Pak let’s us in on how the pandemic has affected badminton:
How is the situation in Kazakhstan now (at the time of the interview)?
The situation in Kazakhstan is very serious, we have a second wave of the virus, everyday there are around 1500 cases everyday (at the time of the interview). The ministry of sport has told us that we cannot train until the start of August. We hope that after the 15th of august we can start tournaments, but it will just be national tournaments and championships. We hope the situation will be easier and can participate in international tournaments.
Since when has Kazakhstan been in lock down and since when have the players been unable to play?
By March they have already been training by themselves at home through zoom. Then we started training again at the start of May for only about one month, but then there was a lockdown again because there was a second wave. Then they trained at home again.
How are the players training?
Now we use zoom for training, we send them exercises through Whatsapp and twice a day we check their training online, through zoom.
Despite the current setback, Mr. Pak ensures that they are still moving forward with their goal of growing the sport in Kazakhstan, as their main aim is to bring the sport to the mass population. “For the first time badminton is included in the national school program, in all schools. Those who win in the regional competitions can go to republic competitions. It helps the kids improve, maybe we can have new champions from the schools.” he says.
They hope that with the implementation of these new programs, it would lead to further success in building a foundation for the sport and in the future, hopefully, will take them to greater heights such as the Olympics. When asked about how optimistic they are about achieving Olympic victory, Mr. Pak had this to say:
“We have to be realistic, we’re not thinking about a medal, we have to think about the Olympic qualifier and then a medal. Badminton in Kazakhstan is just beginning to develop, We have jumped from group 3 to 1 meaning the government will better support us. We are growing, step by step, maybe after 2 or 3 Olympics we can win some medals. Our target is qualifying for the Olympics in 2024. Again, we win step by step.”
Mr. Ormanov also notes that they cannot achieve their dream of Olympic success alone:
“We need help from BA and BWF. We hope that Kazakhstan will be helped. For shuttle time, we are the second region to have a translated version for shuttle time course, into the Russian language. If we do it alone it will be difficult for us. Now, BA hosts 2-3 times in a year, a training camp for 2-3 weeks but it’s not enough. We need our players to train with higher players to help them improve, for example from those in Indonesia and Malaysia and hopefully send them there to training camps for 3-4 months to improve.”
With opportunities like these for their players, Mr. Ormanov is sure that the exposure would help improve their players and take them to greater badminton heights. But he emphasizes that for Olympic and international glory, the federation must be strong in every aspect and not just the players. “Our plan is to create a very strong federation everywhere: referees, umpires, players, coaches, and only then is when we can think of Olympic medals.”