She may have become a media darling off the court but on it, she has not been such a hit, especially with her teammates.
Kazakh volleyball player Sabina Altynbekova is now facing the wrath of her team after capturing the hearts of Taiwanese and other fans from Asia.
The 17-year-old was adored by Taiwanese fans and created a huge media interest at the 17th Asian Women's U19 Volleyball Championship in Taipei this month.
But back home, the 1.82m-tall athlete, whose legs are said to be 1.2m long, faces criticism from not just the media, but also her own coach, the Daily Mail reported.
"Fans just stare at her and they are not following the championship anymore," Vesti, a respected Kazakh daily, wrote.
Her Kazakhstan under-19 national team coach, Mr Nurlan Sadikov, told Tengrin News: "It is impossible to work like this. The crowd behaves like there is only one player at the championship."
Apple Daily reported that Altynbekova's team lost to India in the semi-finals on Wednesday, despite the support of Taiwanese fans with Kazakh flags.
But the explosion of interest in her has only continued to expand.
Taiwanese media, which previously would write only a couple of lines about the volleyball competition, devoted multiple-page picture features about her.
Online, artists are also turning out anime fantasies about her.
Altynbekova's Instagram account, which has more than 201,400 followers as of press time, attracts huge numbers of comments.
Her latest picture, which she posted yesterday with the caption "Thank you so much Taipei. We miss you. With (love)️ Sabina#20 #Kazakhstan", has been liked more than 18,000 times.
Facebook pages which claim to represent her are attracting tens of thousands followers, mostly from China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Altynbekova has said she is flattered by the attention, but she appealed for fans to stop setting up social media pages in her honour and focus on the volleyball instead.
"I was flattered at first but it's all getting a little bit much," she said.
"I want to concentrate on playing volleyball and be famous for that, not anything else."
This article was first published on July 26, 2014.
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