ALMATY, Kazakhstan, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Boxing heavyweight Kazakhstan will hope to punch above its weight and rack up another high medal count at the Jakarta Asian Games after finishing fourth at Incheon four years ago.
The Central Asian nation of 17 million has traditionally been strong in summer sports such as boxing and judo, and scooped 84 medals, including 28 golds, at the 2014 Games.
Kazakhstan’s delegation will be led by 21-year-old middleweight boxer Abilkhan Amankul who will serve as the country’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony on Saturday.
“There will be no weak competitors at the Asian Games,” Amankul, a silver medallist at last year’s World Boxing Championships, said in a video published by Kazakhstan’s Boxing Federation. “There it will become clear who is stronger.”
Kazakhstan won 10 medals in boxing at the 2014 Asian Games, including six gold. Zhaina Shekerbekova, the 2014 Asian Games flyweight silver medallist, will again represent the women’s side.
The men’s judo team has their sights on claiming a gold, silver and bronze. Kazakh judokas won six medals at Incheon: one gold, two silvers and three bronzes.
Yeldos Smetov, who won a judo silver at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in the under-60 kg category, will be looking to win his second consecutive Asian Games gold.
“Traditionally Kazakh athletes have been strong at continental competitions,” said Yeldos Ramazanov, the deputy secretary general of Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.
“We are seeing that Asia is becoming the centre of the sports world. The Winter Games were held in South Korea, the next summer Olympic Games are in Japan, then the Olympics come back to China for winter sports.”
The Kazakh city of Almaty, which hosted the 2017 Winter Universiade, twice lost bids to host the Winter Olympics, losing to Beijing for the 2022 Games and to Sochi for 2014.
The Asian Games come as Kazakh sport mourns the death of its first Olympic medallist in figure skating, Denis Ten, who was stabbed to death in Almaty last month.
The 25-year-old, who won bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, was killed during a struggle with two men he caught trying to steal the mirrors of his car. (Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber Editing by Ian Ransom)