KAZAKHSTAN or to give its proper handle, the Republic of Kazakhstan, was the last of the Soviet Republics to gain independence in 1991, enabling it in its own right to enter into the Olympics in 1996. Kazakhstan has a population of around eighteen million and is a real sporting state which has captured the imagination of the Olympic movement and in turn many of its medals in a variety of sporting disciplines. Six golds have been won, five silver and six bronze. Quite a phenomenal medal haul for a country which has come rather late to the Olympic party and let us not forget three separate Val Barker awards too for good measure. Only, the United States have more Val Barker awards, five in fact, but they have been around the Olympic boxing ring for many, many years more than the Kazakhs. Boxing has certainly taken off in a big way at the Olympics for the Republic of Kazakhstan.

In 1996, light-heavyweight, Vassily Jirov struck gold and also landed the coveted Val Barker trophy. Kazakhstan hit the the ground running in the Olympics and took three more medals at these Games. Flyweight, Bulat Zhumadilov won silver and two bronzes were achieved by light-welterweight, Bulat Niyazymbetov and Yermakhan Ibraimov respectively.

Four years on in Sydney, four more medals were won, on this occasion two golds, and two silvers. Kazakhstan was really punching its weight now in the Olympic ring. Featherweight, Bezkat Sattarkhavov and Yemakhan Ibraimov at light-middleweight, each took gold. Ibraimov adding to his bronze medal gained four years earlier. Flyweight, Bulat Zhumadilov complementing his silver achievement in Atlanta; while up in the super-heavyweight category, Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov lost in the final narrowly on points to Team GB’s Audley Harrison who later embarked on a largely successful paid career.

Little it seems could stop these comparative Olympic newcomers and in Athens in 2004, a set of three medals were won. Welterweight Bakhtiyar Artayev won gold and also received the Val Barker trophy, the second time a Kazakh boxer had achieved this feat in just three Games, Gennady Golovkin took silver at light-middleweight, while a bronze went to lightweight, Serik Yeledov.

When they left the amateur ranks, both Jirov and Golovkin went on to win professional world titles. Jirov became the IBF cruiserweight champion; while Golovkin has already unified the main world middleweight belts, impressive ring credentials for men who made their mark for their country on the Olympic stage.

Two medals were won in Beijing in 2008. Welterweigh, Bakhyt Sarsekbayev continued the golden run and a bronze medal went to Yerkebulan Shynaliyev.

So, onto London 2012 and the medal success continued, with four medals being won, continued phenomenal success for such a small nation

Another Val Barker winner, welterweight Serik Sapiyev landed gold, outscoring Team GB’s Fred Evans in the Olympic final, while silver went to light-heavyweight, Adilber Niyazymbetov. The gigantic super-heavyweight, Ivan Dychko lost narrowly on points in his semi-final to Team GB’s eventual Olympic champion Anthony Joshua, the Kazakh receiving a bronze and a women’s boxing medal, a bronze went to middleweight, Marina Volnova, in the first time a women’s boxing event had been included in the Summer Olympics.

Amazing success in such a short Olympic period of time and there are no signs that Kazakhstan will be easing up in their medal pursuit in Rio in 2016. The freedom to enter as an independent unitary republic has enabled Kazakhstan to achieve singular success rather than previously as a component part of the old USSR (Soviet Union) or a participating member of the Unified Team in 1992 of which twelve of the former Soviet Republics participated in Barcelona.