‘I’ll win Olympics by smiling,’ says Turkish recurve archer
Barçın Yinanç - ISTANBUL
Recurve Archer Mete Gazoz is confident he will be an Olympic champion in 2020 in Japan and in 2024. What makes him so confident is his points, his constant training, but also his ability to manage stress during the finals. From state investments in facilities to trainers’ approach, Turkey is in a much better situation in archery compared to other countries, Gazoz told the Daily News.
Let’s start with the classic question: How come archery?
It comes from my father who started archery in his 20s and made it to the national team.
Did he encourage you or did you fancy becoming an archer watching him?
As my father was an athlete, we followed him as a family to his championships, using these travels as holiday occasions. We also watched him compete. So as I became familiar with archery in my childhood I started going to the archery club, and since then I have kept doing it.
So I assume you do it because you like it?
Of course. Archery is not a sport branch you can do by force. It is one that a person goes to seek and discovers it individually. Had I not had the passion for it, my father would have disapproved if I continued it. I have a license in seven other branches: Volleyball, basketball, football, tennis, table tennis, swimming and chess. So I tried other branches, too, but it was archery that I loved the most. But when I look back I can see that my father’s plans for the future was at the background that I try other branches. It helped develop my skills for archery, enabling the use of both parts of my brain.
What is it that makes you like archery?
The feeling of winning as a result of a decision that is taken on the moment, within seconds. You can either win or lose with a decision taken in a split second. The seconds between the final moments of the set time and the instant you shoot the arrow excite me.
Is there any part of archery which you like less?
I have a target and I am spending an effort to reach that target. In order to succeed I have to move. I can’t expect my body to act by itself. Obviously there are moments when I get bored but I motivate myself with my aspirations.
Has there been a turning point in your career?
The 2015 world championship, which was also like the main qualifier for the 2016 Olympics. I had a very bad race. I was 16 years old and I wanted to quit. At a time when people were having the best time of their lives, I was away from my family and I had worked a lot but failed. I thought I will not be successful in archery. My mother talked me out of it, saying as a family they would respect my decision but that they were confident that I had a future in archery. One year was left to the Olympics so I tried my chance and made it.
The classic question again: How does it feel to be in the Olympics?
The highest point of pride you can feel. The highest respect you can earn in the sports world.
Let’s talk about your target and aspirations?
It’s crystal clear. In 2020 I will become an Olympic champion. Then I come back and fancy doing a 10-meter air pistol. My trainer asks me, “Son, what do you think you are doing.” Then we continue to archery and I am again a world champion. I again become an Olympic champion in 2024 and make history for the successive Olympic championships. I will quit after participating in the 2032 Olympics to become a sports psychologist.
What makes you say in full confidence that you will win the Olympics?
I am definitely certain that I will be an Olympic champion. First of all, I can truly manage well the stress environment during the finals. I can psychologically control my competitor.
How do you do that?
With a simple method — by smiling. Think about it like this: You have been preparing for years for the championship, you are in the finals, you are in stress but your competitor next to you laughs.
How do you manage to laugh under that stress?
It is in my nature. In fact you cannot come across too much of an expression of anger in my facial mimics. Even when I get angry I keep smiling.
This apparently did not work in the previous Olympiads.
Actually I think I lost to myself. I was demoralized by my shot. And I was younger. I think the whole environment weighed too much on me. And at that time I did not aim to be a champion. Today what also makes me confident are my points. And finally I do a lot of training and I work a lot.
Do you know your competitors? Do you follow them?
I don’t follow them specifically. Why should I? If they want, they can follow me.
Why sports psychology afterwards?
There is not too much of it in our country. And the ones who exist have no personal sports careers. Those without a sportive past, those who have never lived those critical seconds; that one moment that can change everything, cannot exactly understand the athletes. As a person who has won and lost at that single moment, I believe I could give training in terms of concentration, for instance. Some can shoot in the first second while another on the 11th second. The average is between three and six seconds. You need to concentrate between those three and six seconds, shoot and then re-contract. I, for instance, start singing or talk to myself. And then you need to concentrate again.
How do you position archery in the Turkish sports world?
Its popularity is on the rise. It is not so much fun or exciting to watch, like volleyball or basketball. Archery might not appeal to everyone. But following the 2016 Olympics, there has been an increasing interest.
Does that bother you that all Turks talk about is only football?
Not really. After all if you do a popular sport, that can expose you to too much criticism and that can affect your motivation negatively. So in a way this can be an advantage.
When you compete abroad do you see major differences between Turkey and other country’s approach toward sports?
I would say in archery Turkey is in a better position compared to other countries, be it in terms of our trainers, their approach, their relations with us, in terms of our facilities or state’s investments. A facility specifically for archery has been constructed. The one in Antalya which was open in 1999 is unique. We start shooting in Antalya outdoors wearing short sleeves in February while other countries are freezing that time of the year.It is one of the oldest traditional sports of the country. The state has shown a lot of interest to this branch from the beginning. I am grateful to the Turkish Archery Federation for providing all these means.
Is there anything you miss because you are a national athlete?
No nothing. On the contrary, I am very happy. Actually the other day I have been thinking about it. When I quit in 2032 will I regret anything looking back? I will regret nothing. On the contrary, I will say, good that I have done it. I have been in camps since I was 10 years old; it has been 10 years. I have learned a lot in these camps, met a lot of different people.
What do you do in your free time?
I like to play video games when I am not in camps.