Lausanne / Switzerland

The skating world is mourning the loss of Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, one of their dearest athletes, who was stabbed to death in a brutal and senseless act of violence on July 19. Shockwaves ran through the skating community when news broke that the 25-year-old skater was attacked with a knife in his hometown of Almaty.

Denis Ten not only wrote sports history by becoming the first Kazakh Figure Skater to win an Olympic medal – bronze in 2014 – and medals at ISU World Figure Skating Championships, but he singlehandedly put Kazakhstan on the map of Figure Skating. More than that, Denis was an inspiration to many other skaters from all over the world, he was a brilliant young man, not only a successful skater, but also a talented musician and songwriter, photographer and writer, an intelligent student full of so many interests. He pursued many projects and organized his own skating show “Denis Ten and Friends”. The last edition just took place a few weeks ago. Denis participated in two movie projects and he was part of the team that bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games to be held in his hometown Almaty (the Games eventually were awarded to Beijing).

On the ice, he was a wonderful skater and performer and he moved as smoothly off the ice in the world of the media, society and sport politics. He gave thoughtful interviews and always was ready to make a joke and to share his generous smile. At the same time, he was a strong-willed person and never gave up.

The author of this article recalls Denis competing at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2007 in Oberstdorf, Germany, his first ISU Championships. The 13-year-old was one of the youngest competitors in the event and he narrowly missed the cut for the Free Skating by coming 26th in the Short Program after making a mistake. At the time he was debating whether it was worthwhile to continue skating, but he decided not to give up and continued to work and train hard.

As it turned out, it was the beginning of a great career. Two years later Denis jumped right into the spotlight in his debut at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2009 in Los Angeles, USA, when he skated brilliantly to finish 8th. Unfortunately, he was often affected by injuries. Nevertheless, Denis won the silver medal at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in 2013 and followed up with Olympic bronze in 2014, the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships title in 2015 as well as with the bronze medal at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2015. He severely injured his ankle in summer 2017, but still competed at the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, Korea, which was very important to him as he was of Korean descent.


“In spite of the unfortunate events today, I will not give up and continue to work. This is life, this is the sport and it all makes our life experience,” he said in PyeongChang following the Short Program. “To be in Korea is indeed a big honor for me. I have waited for this competition for a long time. Nevertheless, I am happy to be here and happy that I made it here to PyeongChang, because there were many hurdles and many difficulties. Last time I was in Korea, I was on crutches and I couldn't even think about being able to come here as an active athlete."

As always, Denis showed a great fighting spirit and was determined to come back. Following the Olympic Games, he took a longer break to recover from his injuries and focused on his MBA studies in petrol industry at the Kazakh-British Technical University, but then returned on the ice for his skating show in June.

The skating community reacted with profound sadness to the tragic death of Denis Ten.


I’m filled with horror and sadness to learn of the senseless killing of my incredibly talented friend and training mate @tenis_den Denis was a rare and special soul; one of the most benevolent young men that ever I’ve known; a treasure to the skating world and to his country of Kazakhstan, where he made tremendous strides in the promotion of sports, skating, and positivity. He was idolized by so many and loved by everyone who knew him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, who lived every step of his skating career along with him. I can’t help but to see his mother sitting in the stands of the rink day after day, watching with such pride in her eyes, as her son practiced what he loved. My heart weighs so heavy for her, and for all of those who were lucky enough to know Denis. A life of excellence cut way to short. Rest In Peace my dear friend. #DenisTen

A post shared by Evan Lysacek (@evanlysacek) on


Young Denis had looked up to Evan Lysacek and recalled later how proud he was to get his autograph when he was a flower kid at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2005 in Moscow where he was training at the time. 

Many other skaters and fans from all over the world posted comments and photos on social media, remembering Denis. All his success never changed Denis Ten. “I believe I am exactly the same person than I was before. I am still someone who loves the sport, his fans, who is happy about his successes and upset about his failures. We athletes stay the way we are, we are not just growing up, but also growing inside,” he said in PyeongChang.

Denis Ten will stay in the hearts of many people forever.