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Kyrgyzstan's Brightest Olympic Medal Hope Clears Legal Hurdle Over Fight

Aisuluu Tynybekova is Kyrgyzstan's best hope of winning a medal at the London Olympics
Aisuluu Tynybekova is Kyrgyzstan's best hope of winning a medal at the London Olympics
Kyrgyzstan's best hope for an Olympic medal has been cleared to compete in London, but her legal troubles may give her opponents one more reason to fear her.

The country's premier female wrestler, 19-year-old Aisuluu Tynybekova, is facing hooliganism charges for an April incident in the Kyrgyz capital in which she is accused of punching a teenage girl in the face, breaking her nose, and causing other injuries.

The girl's family filed the charges against Tynybekova on behalf of the alleged victim, a minor, and reportedly appealed to the country's Olympic Committee seeking the wrestler's disqualification from the Games.

Tynybekova escaped that move on July 20 when a court ruled that she was free to travel to London, where she will enter the 63-kilogram freestyle competition that begins August 8, and that her trial would be resumed upon her return.

The charges against the wrestler carry serious penalties -- up to five years in prison.

The plaintiffs claim that Tynybekova and a fellow wrestler attacked the teenager, Yasmina Nurdi Kyzy, in broad daylight in downtown Bishkek.

Nurdi Kyzy's mother, Nurilya Kochkorbaeva, says her daughter sustained serious injuries.

"We had to visit a psychologist to treat psychological damages. [My daughter] is also experiencing breathing problems. In autumn she has to undergo preventative treatment for a concussion she suffered," Kochkorbaeva said.

"Next year, she will have a plastic surgery on her nose because her nose bones were broken."

Tynybekova denies the allegation, saying she acted in self-defense. According to her version of events the two athletes were attacked by a group of young people, among them Nurdu Kyzy.

'Mountain Ram'

The wrestler from the southern city of Jalal-Abad says the group hurled insults at her, calling her "a mountain ram." The athlete, whose childhood spent on a small farm helping her family herd cattle and milk cows has been well-documented, has been quoted by local media as saying she frequently hears the insult and has become "used to it."

Tynybekova's coaches have stood by the wrestler.

Olympic Profile: Kyrgyzstan's First Female Wrestler
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(WATCH: On the mat with Aisuluu Tynybekova)

The head coach of the female wrestling team, Nurbek Izabekov, has said that national sports officials have tried to reach an out-of-court settlement without success.

"We apologized for the incident before the victim's family and offered to pay for her medical treatment, but to no avail," Izabekov told "Vecherniy Bishkek" daily.

The athlete's defense lawyer, Timur Janaev, has gone so far as to accuse the victim's family of seeking to cash in on the incident.

"Well, two girls had a fight, and what's done is done. We've tried to resolve it outside court. I think now they have started blackmailing right before the Olympics," Janaev said.

The highly publicized case has divided public opinion in Kyrgyzstan. Some comments on media and social networks say the athlete must face the consequences of her actions.

"No one should get away with breaking another person's nose, no matter who they are -- a president or a champion," a Bishkek resident wrote in a comment to a K.News article.

Some others call the incident a provocation intended to extort money from the athlete.

The victim's mother, Kochkorbaeva, initially demanded some $11,000 in compensation for bodily harm and moral damages. However, on the eve of the July 20 hearing Kochkorbaeva dropped the compensation demand, saying the family seeks only to bring their daughter's assailant to justice.

Outraged by the court decision allowing the wrestler to go to London, Kochkorbaeva vowed she would fight until Tynybekova is punished for the incident.

Written by Farangis Najibullah, with reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service correspondent Gulaiym Ashakeeva.
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.