There are many superstars at the Asian Games Village in Hangzhou which houses around 10,000 athletes from across the continent, but the one who is getting all the attention is a little 'superstar'! Several participants were seen competing with one another to click selfies with the nine-month-old Stalina, daughter of Kazakh fencer Pistova Yulina.
Stalina's father Alexi is also in Hangzhou as the coach of Kazakhstan's fencing team. When both of them were included in the national squad for the continental event, they decided to take their toddler along. However, the local organisers opposed the move due to the regulations in place that disallow participants to bring their children to the Games.
After the duo made it clear that they would not travel to China without their breastfeeding daughter, the Kazakhstan Olympic Committee appealed to the Games organisers to make an exception to the rule. Finally, the organisers conceded and allowed Yulina and Alexi to bring Stalina to Hangzhou.
The 30-year-old Yulina is a former Asian junior champion and Hangzhou 2022 will be her third Asian Games.
Incidentally, former Pakistan women's cricket team skipper Bismah Maroof had also requested the organisers to allow her to bring her infant daughter to the Games. However, she was forced to opt out of the Games because of the event's "no travelling with children" policy.
There are many others who were faced with the tough choice of skipping the Asian Games or spending weeks in Hangzhou leaving behind their infants. Indian squash player Dipika Pallikal is attending the Games without her two-year-old twin sons Kabir and Zian. Ace chess player D Harika travelled to Hangzhou after leaving her six-month-old daughter Hanvika in the care of her parents.