By Nick Butler

WTF President Chungwon Choue presents Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev with the black belt ©WTFJanuary 22 - Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been presented with a 9th dan black belt by World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) head Chungwon Choue as recognition of his contribution to the development of the sport in his country.

Nazarbayev is the latest international leader to be presented with a black belt following the likes of United States President Barack Obama, South Korean leader Lee Myung-bak, and United Nations secretary general Ban-Ki Moon.

In a a 35-minute ceremony at the Ak Orda Presidential Palace in Astana, the President received the award before pledging to continue to promote the sport and increase participation levels. 

A WTF-designated Regional Training Centre, which will standardise and improve the training of taekwondo coaches in the region, is among the projects being considered. 

Following the success of the inaugural 2013 version in Manchester, Kazakhstan is also bidding to host the first tournament of the 2014 WTF Grand Prix Series - where they will face competition from China, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, and Great Britain.

The Central Asian nation is also flexing its bidding muscles in a more general sense by bidding for other events, including the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

Another leader who holds a black belt is Russian President Vladimir Putin ©Sovfoto/Getty ImagesThe Kazakh President follows in the footsteps of the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin in being awarded the honorary title ©Sovfoto/Getty Images

When speaking after the belt was presented, President Choue was quick to recognise the achievements of President Nazarbayev in raising the profile of the sport.

"We are delighted to be here in the beautiful city of Astana and to have the opportunity to officially thank and reward President Nursultan Nazarbayev for the work he has done in supporting and promoting taekwondo in this country," he said.  

"It is imperative that we work with each of our 205 Member National Associations to guarantee that we fulfill the potential of our global sport.

"The people we have met so far in Kazakhstan have shown us the passion for taekwondo that exists here and the establishment of a Regional Training Centre would help ensure that the sport's popularity grows even further - not just in this country but throughout the region.

"Travelling around the world always reinforces just how popular taekwondo is globally.

"Taekwondo is a sport for all nationalities which offers universal opportunities, regardless of race, gender or faith.

"Bringing the World Taekwondo GP to countries around the world will motivate and inspire the next generation of athletes and ensure that the Olympic values continue to be spread worldwide."

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