Sabina Altynbekova is a 17-year-old volleyball star for the Kazakhstan junior national team. She competed at the Asian U-19 Volleyball Championships, which normally would have earned little to no media attention. The arrival of Altynbekova ensured that wasn’t the case.
Simply put, Altynbekova is attractive. The international media has decreed as much, and the internet was happy to follow. With those two driving forces behind her, Altynbekova became a bona fide sensation in the mold of Allison Stokke before she even knew it. The issue was that it happened so quickly that her own teammates was miffed by the transformation, upset about the attention that the likely future model was gaining on the court, according to the Daily Mail.
Altynbekova’s coach has refrained from criticizing her, but does make clear that the buzz around the Kazakh teen emerged as the single largest distraction at the tournament.
“We, of course, are very pleased that our girl is turning heads of thousands of people and it is very good for the country. But other players are not feeling very comfortable, became one member gets all the attention, and the others are thrown into the background,” Kazakhstan U-19 volleyball coach Nurlan Sadikov told national news outlet Tengrinews. “The crowd behaves like there is only one player at the championship.”
As for Altynbekova herself, she insists that she’s not interested in the fame and only wants to focus on her performance on the court, as difficult as that may be now.
“Honestly, I was very surprised, because I am an ordinary girl from Kazakhstan who just wants to be useful to her country at international competitions. And this amount of fame really stunned me.
“My real [social media] profiles are only in Instagram and Vkontakte. But there are a lot of fake accounts, and I do not know why people do this. … The real benefit of my new popularity is that people learn about Kazakhstan, and some of my fans are already making pictures with Kazakhstan’s flag and are following our progress in sports.”
At the rate her popularity is going, there will be little about Kazakhstan that her fans don’t know in short time. Somewhere Sacha Baron Coen is surely smiling.