Sabina Altynbekova: Much Ado About Beauty?

Sabina Altynbekova has been busy playing volleyball for Kasakhstan in the World Under-19 Tournament in Taipei, Taiwan. It’s not her claim to fame, however.

Altynbekova, 18, has become a distraction during the tournament, reports The Huffington Post, because of her looks. Many critics, including her own coach, have labeled her a distraction.

“It is impossible to work like this,” Nurlan Sadikov, coach of Kazakhstan’s under-19 team, told Tengrin News in a quote translated by the Daily Mail. “The crowd behaves like there is only one player at the championship.”

The coach did say that while he was proud Altynbekova has gained popularity, other team members feel slighted, according to the International Business Times.

“Of course we are very pleased that our little girl turned heads tens of thousands of people and it is very good for the country. However, if it was a team regular, it would be better tolerated by all players of the team. And so it turns out that all the attention she draws one, and the whole team is deprived of attention at all. You see, we are in fact talking about the women’s team,” Sadikov added.

Sadikov is speaking of Altynbekova’s growing popularity during the Taiwan tournament. Fans across Asia — and, eventually, around the world — took to the internet, smitten with Altynbekova. YouTube videos that show her warming up, high-fiving her teammates, or just standing around have received tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of views. The Straits-Times reported that Taiwanese fans were holding Kazakhstan flags and arriving an hour early just to get a glimpse of Altynbekova.

Although there have been no less than 22,000 Facebook pages dedicated to Altynbekova, and even one Twitter page, Altynbekova’s only online presence seems to be one Instagram account and an account on VK, a social media website popular in Europe, Russia, and many former Soviet states, including Altynbekova’s home state of Kazakhstan.

Altynbekova’s mother, Nuripa Amrievna, said the new star had been attending a boarding school for gifted children and recently entered Kazakh University for Humanities and Law.

“I wanted her to be admitted to the law (school), but she chose sports,” she said, according to a Google translation. She added that her daughter has been asked to model. “But she will not go there — we as parents are against [it],” she was quoted as saying.

Altynbekova herself has made no comment, so the public is left to wonder if she was trying to become a model, an actress, or activist, using her beauty for a cause.

Or, perhaps, she just wanted to play volleyball.