From failing to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics to World Champion, Dastonbek Otabolaev has achieved so much in his career. The short bounce back and capturing of the gold medal in karate is one of, if not the best, thing he’s accomplished this far. Now, he has his eyes on the future as a World Champion.
Growing up, Otabolaev discovered karate through Bruce Lee as many young men and women do. But it was that piece of cinema that connected the dots for Dastonbek Otabolaev between what he saw and what he wanted to do.
“I grew up in a small town, nobody knew about karate! As a kid, I watched a movie about Bruce Lee and loved to fight.”
Otabolaev doesn’t only do karate. As many other athletes in combat sports do, he is multi-faceted. “I also do boxing,” says Otabolaev.
In his spare time, whenever he has the time, Dastonbek Otabolaev enjoys reading. But he finds little time between his studying and training day in and day out.
“I like to read books, honestly I don’t have time, I’m studying for a magistracy as a lawyer, I’m still working, a lawyer in a firm, and also training, I don’t have time to practice except sports.”
Dastonbek Otabolaev and the Karate World Championships
Promises can be a great motivating factor for athletes and for anyone else in life. Promises to parents, they’re even stronger. Before the World Championships, Dastonbek Otabolaev made his promise to his mother. He wanted to make history. He wanted to represent his country. And he did just that.
“Before the World Championship, I promised Mother and I by setting myself the goal of winning a gold medal and writing the history of Uzbek karate as the first World Champion not only in Uzbekistan, but in Central Asia. It’s for me dreams come true and I did it for my mother.”
Now the bar has been set for Otabolaev. He is a World Champion now. Otabolaev believes that the World Championship is a sign of things to come for him and is expecting a huge 2022 saying, “I want to win only gold medal in World Games, Asian Games and Islamic Games in 2022.”
Now, the IOC has decided that karate will not be on the slate in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. When he missed the cut for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Otabolaev was surely upset. But following his World Championship win, he knows in his heart that he would take home the gold medal if karate were in the 2024 Games.
“You know, in our karate, sometimes it’s not enough to be the best you have to be the best of the best. I lost in Paris and I didn’t win a license in Tokyo. But I think I was better that day than ever. I was better among my rivals. In 7 fights, I won 5 of them. I was stressed because I really wanted to win in Tokyo 2020. I worked so much for myself. Now karate will no longer be in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. If it were, I would become the champion in Paris I have no doubt for that.”
With the depth of karate in the world, there are legends everywhere. From the local level to a worldwide stage. But the truly great karateka permeate throughout history. For Dastonbek Otabolaev, one of those karateka is Georges St-Pierre. I asked Otabolaev who he would choose to spar in history, he chose the former two-weight UFC champion.
“I’d spar George St-Pierre,” said Otabolaev. Continuing, he says, “I, as a fighter and as a person, really respect him as my idol. If there was an opportunity, I would spar with George St-Pierre or Rafael Aghayev.”
In parting, Dastonbek Otabolaev leaves a message of inspiration. He says that no matter where you are from, achieving goals and dreams are still possible. He looks at himself as the proof of work for that. His town didn’t even know what karate was. But now Otabolaev is a karate World Champion.
“I grew up in a small town, nobody knew about karate! Fight is in my blood. In Dubai I became World Champion. A little kid who was born in a small town became World Champion and wrote history in Uzbek karate. In this life everything is possible if you want it from the bottom of your heart.”
While the Olympics are excluding karate from the 2024 Games in Paris, Dastonbek Otabolaev is still on the path to history, as he likes to do. Karate is a path to many great things both external in internal. He will continue that journey.