In this section you will learn about traditional Uzbek sports as well as the accomplishments of famous Uzbek sportsmen.

Kurash (wrestling)

Uzbekistan is the land of wrestlers (polvons). Kurash (wrestling) is a traditional sport for Uzbeks. It’s one of the most historical types of sports among the peoples of Central Asia. According to historical sources, Kurash existed at least three millennia ago in the region. In his historical work called “the Histories,” the Greek historian Herodotus mentioned that Kurash was a common activity of peoples of Central Asia. It is still a form of traditional martial arts and a public sports entertainment game in the region today. Kurash is especially popular among Uzbeks who have celebrated their major feasts and holidays with Kurash for centuries. Alpamish, an Uzbek legendary oral epic created a millennium ago, features Kurash as the main traditional martial art of its heroes in their struggle against enemies. Kurash also had been an important part of military training practice of traditional Central Asian armies, including that of Amir Temur. Since the independence of the country in 1991, Kurash became one of the national symbols of Uzbekistan in international sport competitions. Kurash rules and regulations were established in Uzbek. The first ever International Kurash tournament was held in Tashkent in 1998. This event also remarked the establishment of the International Kurash Association with 28 member countries. Today more than 100 nations are members of this Association and international Kurash tournaments are being held regularly among the member states.

Carvings showing wrestling menRock petroglyphs of wrestling men found in Tien Shan mountains, their approximate age is 4000 BC. Source:

Coins with wrestlers on them

A silver coin featuring Kurashchi (wrestlers) was minted by the Central Bank of Uzbekistan to mark the 10th anniversary of the Independence of Uzbekistan in 2001. Source:

two men wrestlingWrestlers on a local holiday. Source: open source internet.

Uzbek wrestlers are also famous here in the US in our own wrestling culture. Here is an article about Uzbek wrestlers in New York:

Here are some highlights from the 2019 world championships:

Kopkari (horse polo)

Kopkari is a traditional horse sport played among Central Asian peoples for the past millennia. Its origins go back to the Turkic peoples of Central Asia whose horseback training came from their childhood due to their nomadic lifestyle. Horse riding together with archery skills was a comparative military advantage of Central Asian peoples for centuries. Today Kopkari (also called Buzkashi) is a popular traditional horseback sport game among Uzbeks in Central Asia including in Afghanistan. The rules are simple, a carcass of lamb or goat is thrown to the field by a referee and a crowd of horsemen compete to grab it from the ground while on horseback. Whoever brings the carcass to the particular circle area wins a prize. It requires tremendous strength and skill from both horseman and horse as well. It also teaches the rider a valuable military skill, training how to work in harmony together with his horse in the struggle against the enemy. Therefore, Uzbek military leaders often organized a Kopkari game to strengthen their cavalries. National holidays like Navruz and feasts are still celebrated with Kopkari and Kurash in the southern regions of Uzbekistan today.

Men riding horses in a field playing kopkariKopkari in Samarkand. Source: open source internet.

Kopkari players riding horsesKopkari in Afghanistan. Source: open source internet

Other Sports


Football (commonly called soccer in the US) is perhaps the most popular sport in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan was famous for its football team. The national team was called Paxtakor, i.e. “cotton growers.” This is kind of like how Pittsburgh’s (sometimes called “the steel city”) football team is called the Steelers. Football has been played in Uzbekistan since the 1920s and the Paxtakor team is still revered today. In 1979, seventeen members of the Paxtakor team were killed in a plane crash. At the time they were the best in the Soviet Union. Nowadays, the national football team of Uzbekistan participates primarily across the Asian regions.

Team photo of PaxtakorA photo of the Paxtakor team 1979


Boxing in another sport at which Uzbeks and Uzbekistanis have excelled. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Uzbekistan team won a total of seven medals in boxing, four of which were gold. Uzbekistan won the most medals at the 2019 boxing world championship of any country, winning a total of five, including three golds.

Here is an article about Uzbek boxing:–145596.

Here is a video about the rise of Uzbek boxing:

Olympics Tokyo Olympics logo

The summer 2020 Olympics have been postponed until the summer of 2021, when Uzbekistan will make its seventh consecutive appearance since independence. Uzbekistani athletes will compete in track and field, boxing, canoeing, cycling, gymnastics, modern pentathlon, swimming, taekwondo, tennis, and wrestling. Here are the specs on some of the top Uzbekistani stars:

  1.  Svetlana Radzivil is a high jumper from Tashkent. She has won the Asian Games title three times (2010, 2014, 2018). Her personal record jump is currently 1.98m (6 feet 5.95 inches).
  2.  Knockout artist Bakhodir Jalolov is from Sariosio, in the Surkhondaryo province. His current record is six wins and zero losses. He won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Boxing Championship and a gold medal at the same competition in 2019. At a towering six feet seven inches, he competes in the super-heavyweight division.
  3.  Elmurat Tasmuradov was born in Tashkent. He competes in Greco-Roman Wrestling. In the photo below, he is at the 2016 Olympics, where he won a bronze medal in the 59kg (130lbs) weight class. He has won four gold medals and one silver medal at the Asian Championships.
Svetlana Radzivil
Svetlana Radzivil
Bakhodir Jalolov
Bakhodir Jalolov
Elmurat Tasmuradov
Elmurat Tasmuradov

Suggested Learning Activity

A physical education based activity

References and Further Resources