Bosphorus no challenge for man with Down’s Syndrome
Mesude ERŞAN ISTANBUL
Caner Ekin, a 32-year-old with Down’s Syndrome, swims the Bosphorus.Swimming 5.5 kilometers from Europe to Asia is now business-as-usual for Caner Ekin, a 32-year-old with Down’s Syndrome, who has managed to cross the Bosphorus for the fourth time in a rare tour de force of a human’s willpower.
The parents of Ekin, who was diagnosed with the syndrome just after birth, did everything for their son’s education in the Turkey of the early 1980s, when children with the condition had few opportunities for the special education they required.
Ekin was accepted to Association for the Protection of Educable Children when he was 4 years old. He continued his education for seven years in a special school operated by the association, which is known as ZİÇEV today. His program included swimming courses three days every week, which was supported by additional weekend training to which he was brought by his parents.
Swimming teacher Osman Akdemir became one of the main architects of Ekin’s success by encouraging him to take part in the intercontinental swimming challenge.
“Caner’s biggest success is the swimming marathon in the Bosphorus. The depth, the currents, the waves and the sense of space were not easy elements for a kid with Down’s Syndrome,” Akdemir told daily Hürriyet.
Ekin completed the 5.5-kilometer course designed for “special swimmers” together with another swimmer who has Down’s Syndrome and autism. Almost 400 competitors failed to complete the course on July 16.
While Ekin swam eight-to-nine kilometers each day in the southwestern Turkish resort of Fethiye to prepare for the Bosphorus race, his father was always with him. “Families face a lot of hurdles in big cities. Some swimming pools create troubles during admission. It’s also hard to find a sponsor,” Savaş Ekin said, stressing that his son broke his own record by completing the latest race in one hour and 13 minutes against all odds.
“This year’s race was a bit more difficult. I was concerned at one point whether he would be able to complete. But he’s stubborn, he did it, and we’re proud of him,” he added.
Ekin is also proud of his own successes. Smiling at the finish line, clutching his medal. “I always have my medal with me,” he said.
“When you give them an opportunity, these people can achieve very important things. Don’t make them stay at home. Send them to schools, encourage them in sports and let them have goals,” Akdemir said.