In the vast expanse of Mongolia, a nation steeped in the legacy of Genghis Khan and renowned for its ancient “three manly sports” of archery, horse racing, and wrestling, a subtle revolution is unfolding. The two-week Asian Games offer a window into a transforming Mongolia, sandwiched between China and Russia, home to only 3.3 million people.
Traditionally associated with a rich history, Mongolia is now embracing modernity, evident in the burgeoning enthusiasm for youth sports that now include breakdancing. This unexpected addition to Mongolia’s sports landscape has found its way into the hearts of the youth, with the country fielding a four-person breaking team at the Asian Games.
Khandjav Myagmarjav, a 25-year-old breakdancer and the sole woman on Mongolia’s breaking team, sees immense potential in showcasing Mongolia as a powerhouse in breaking. The inclusion of breaking in the upcoming Paris Olympics propels Mongolia onto a global stage, offering an opportunity to exhibit its unique flair and skill in this urban dance form.
While breaking may have its roots in street dance in the urban landscapes of America, Mongolia’s connection with the sport is surprisingly deep. Emerging after the country’s democratic revolution in 1990, breaking found fertile ground in a nation breaking free from the shadows of Soviet dominance.
Myagmarjav recounts the modest beginnings of breakdancing in Mongolia during the Soviet era, gradually gaining traction and evolving into a subculture. As the only woman on the breaking team, she emphasizes the growing role of women in the sport, adding a distinctive touch with their flexibility and unique expressions.
The Asian Games serve as a platform for Mongolia to not only establish its presence in breaking within Asia but also to fuel its ambition of becoming a global powerhouse in the sport. As Mongolia diversifies its sporting achievements, the Asian Games have witnessed a blend of traditional and modern successes.
While Mongolia clinched its first gold medal in the more traditional sport of boxing, there were noteworthy achievements in non-traditional realms. Silver medals were secured in women’s 3×3 basketball and esports, the latter reflecting the evolving landscape of competitive gaming. The bronze in men’s 3×3 basketball showcased Mongolia’s prowess in a fast-paced and dynamic format.
Beyond the podium, medals were dispersed across judo, shooting, cycling, and the traditional wrestling sport of kurash. Wrestling, a historic stronghold of Mongolian sports, continues to contribute significantly to the country’s medal tally, with both men and women achieving success.
Mongolia’s foray into esports, with a silver medal in the multiplayer online battle arena Dota 2, emphasizes the country’s adaptability to emerging trends. Tugstur Dashzevge, a silver medalist in esports, expressed pride in their performance against formidable opponents, highlighting the significance of their achievements in the evolving landscape of competitive gaming.
With a delegation comprising just over 400 athletes, significantly smaller than those of powerhouse nations, Mongolia is diversifying its sports portfolio. The inclusion of women’s teams in new sports like football, cricket, wrestling, and boxing reflects a broader shift in Mongolia’s sporting landscape.
The involvement of a young cricket team, with an average age of 19, exemplifies Mongolia’s willingness to explore new horizons. As the country’s median age stands at 29.8, it embraces the exuberance of youth, aiming for a fresh identity in the global sports arena.
Majigsuren Tsogbadrakh, a 23-year-old journalist, acknowledges Mongolia’s nomadic past but believes it’s time to redefine their identity. As a novice breakdancer practicing with the Mongolian breaking team, she represents a generation eager to break away from stereotypical images and showcase Mongolia’s evolving lifestyle, marked by an interest in dance, fashion, and pop culture.
In this dynamic landscape where tradition meets modernity, Mongolia’s journey into the world of breakdancing, esports, and 3×3 basketball signifies not just a sports revolution but a cultural shift—a nation stepping confidently into a new era.