Turkey rises to the occasion

20180815 Turkey thumbnail.jpg

Turkey rises to the occasion

August 15, 2018

On the back of new vision for sport

Turkey’s recent generation of gymnasts have been making a name for themselves on the World Cup circuit for a while now. Last Thursday though, years of strategic planning and training all come together as the five Turkish gymnasts performed brilliantly in their qualification round at the European Championships in Glasgow. They outscored some of the more experienced gymnastics nations to finish in fifth place and qualify for their first ever European team final.

"It's the first time in history," said Ahmet Onder of the feat. He also qualified to the floor and parallel bars finals. "I know I'm ready to do it. My qualification scores are not so good, I know I can do better in finals."Two other Turkish gymnasts also qualified to apparatus finals: Ibrahim Colak on rings and Umit Samiloglu on horizontal bar.

Until the event in Glasgow began Turkey had won one medal at Europeans, a bronze won by Samiloglu on high bar in 2008. With 4 chances in apparatus finals on Sunday, it was Ibrahim Colak that delivered a superb routine that moved him into the second place behind Lord of the Rings Eleftherios Petrounias.

A delighted Colak told us afterwards: "This is my first European Championships medal, I am very happy.I competed here three years ago in the world championships. I like the atmosphere here and I like Scotland."When asked about the team final in which Turkey finished 7th after leading the field at the halfway stage, he commented: "Yesterday was the first time we were in the team finals. We targeted being in it, but not (winning) medals. There were some problems in the competition, but we are happy with what we did.We are focusing on world championships next year [in Stuttgart, Germany, in October 2019] and the team will stay the same."

The mastermind behind the transformation of gymnastics in Turkey is a former gymnast Suat Celen(TUR), who is now the president of their national federation. In 2012 he started to transform the gymnastics programme, increasing the number of clubs across the country and importing foreign coaches to help with the development.

One such coach is Aljaz Pegan of Slovenia. A former horizontal bar world champion, Pegan competed against Celenand has been working in Turkey for five years.

"When Suat became the president, he totally changed the system,"says Pegan. "He has a vision, a very clear view what he wants to do with Turkish gymnastics. He's putting a lot of effort in this goal, which is to qualify a team to the Olympics in 2020."Colak talked about his hopes for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games:"Our target is not one but many medals. [The Turkish team] are good gymnasts, we are all the same generation."

Peganfeels these European championships are a step towards that goal, and gymnasts like Onder are setting a standard for others at home to aspire to.

"We all train together, juniors and seniors, so I also want them to work like us,"says Onder. "We want to reach our goal, and maybe they will be in the team, so of course I believe they're looking up to us, seeing how we train, how we compete."