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Sabina Altynbekova is a Kazakh teenager and volleyball player for Kazakhstan’s U-19 women’s national team who became an internet celebrity for her good looks during her appearance at the Asian Junior Volleyball Championship in Taipei, Taiwan.
On July 16th, 2014, the 17th Asian Women’s U-19 Volleyball Championship commenced in Taipei, Taiwan. During the event, Sabina Altynbekova, a 17-year-old teenager for Kazakhstan’s national team, quickly began drawing the Taiwanese local media and online attention for her apparent beauty, though she rarely made appearances in the matches. After losing to India 2-3 in the semi-finals, Kazakhstan finished in the 7th place.
On YouTube, interview videos and clips of Sabina Altynbekova at the game were uploaded by the Taiwanese fans. On July 22nd, a YouTube channel for the athlete was launched with a video titled “Beautiful Asian Women Volleyball Player Kazakhstan U19,” which has gained more than 1.15 million views in less than a week.
Several other unofficial fan accounts for Sabina were launched as well, including two Twitter accounts with over 28,000 and 3,000 followers, respectively, and four Facebook pages dedicated to the teenage athlete from Kazakhstan, one of which has gained more than 120,000 likes. According to the Daily Mail, and as suggested by the comments left on these pages, the majority of the fan support for Altynbekova seems to stem from China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, with some even creating anime-style fan art illustrations, similar to the fandomization of the Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya.
Meanwhile, her official social media accounts on Instagram and VK social network have also seen a boost from her newfound internet fame, with her Instagram followers jumping to more than 41,000 over the span of a week.
News Media Coverage
The Kazakh teenager’s unexpected stardom in Taiwan was instantly picked up by both regional and international news outlets, including The Strait Times, which reported on the unusual spike in public and media interest in the tournament event as a result of Altynbekova’s fame. The story made the international headlines when Nurlan Sadikov, the coach on Kazakhstan’s national team, reportedly complained about the phenomenon surrounding the teenager, quoted as saying:
“It is impossible to work like this. The crowd behaves like there is only one player at the championship.”
In contrast to the international media coverage of the teenage athlete, Kazakh news publications expressed less enthusiasm towards the media obsession surrounding her, with the Kazakh daily newspaper Vesti commenting that ""fans just stare at her and they are not following the championship any more."
Federation International De Volleyball – 17th Asian Women’s U19 Volleyball Championship kicks off in Taipei
The Strait Times – Legs, volleyball, babe – Sabina Altynbekova spikes media interest
International Business Times – A Beautiful Distraction: 5 Things You Need to Know About Sabina Altynbekova
Huffington Post – Sabina Altynbekova Is Too Beautiful To Play Volleyball, Critics Say
New York Post – Meet the volleyball player ruining games with her good looks
Christian Science Monitor – Sabina Altynbekova: A volleyball star making beautiful choices
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