Her Instagram feed is more sporty than supermodel, but critics are saying Sabina Altynbekova, a volleyball player for Kazakhstan in the Asian Under-19 Championships, is too beautiful to play.
"Honestly, I myself was very surprised," she told Vesti of her newfound fame. "I am a simple, ordinary girl from Kazakhstan, who just wants to bring his country in international competitions benefit to our country ranks high. And I was struck by the popularity."
But many believe Altynbekova, a six-foot-tall 17-year-old, is distracting to other players, the media and fans. Her coach is also tired of the social media firestorm Altynbekova has caused, claiming there’s more focus on her than the game.
"It is impossible to work like this," coach Nurlan Sadikovtold Tengrin News translated by the Daily Mail. "The crowd behaves like there is only one player at the championship."
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Many others are not accepting the teen’s Internet fame like Vesti, a newspaper in Kazakhstan, which said of сабина алтынбекова: “Fans just stare at her and they are not following the championship anymore.”
The Mail reported Altynbekova shot to fame after a game in the Taiwanese capital Taipei. The site said local media would normally only mention the competition in its coverage briefly, but upon seeing Altynbekova, have penned 10-page photo features about the player. Fans have also joined in the craze, creating anime fantasies about the 18-year-old, much to her dismay.
“I was flattered at first but it's all getting a little bit much,” Altynbekova said. “I want to concentrate on playing volleyball and to be famous for that, not anything else.”
Altynbekova has garnered fans from around the world—mostly China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines—who obsessively watch videos of her playing volleyball and hanging with her teammates. Some of the videos have amassed more than one million views in less than a week.
Her model-good looks have attracted nearly 50,000 followers on Instagram, but don’t expect her to take up modeling any time soon.
Altynbekova's mother, Nuripa Amrievna, said her daughter was asked to model but Sabina is not allowed.
"I wanted her to be admitted to the law (school), but she chose sports," Amrievna told Vesti. "But she will not go there -- we as parents are against.”
Sabina Altynbekova recently entered Kazakh University for Humanities and Law.