Oil wrestling fans remember legends
EDİRNE- Anadolu Agency
Wrestlers are competing for the honor of winning the golden belt at the festival- one of the world's oldest sporting events, which has been held annually in the Edirne province since 1362 and is on UNESCO's List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
As with any sport, certain wrestlers in the history of Kırkpınar have been singled out for their incredible success stories, record-breaking performances, passion, and love for this Turkish tradition which has thrived for centuries.
In fact, renowned wrestlers or figures linked to the festival are like local celebrities. Fans ask to take photos with them and for their autographs.
Ahmet Taşcı, considered one of the best oil wrestlers since the foundation of the Turkish Republic, has won the Kırkpınar tournament eight times.
He dominated the competition for a full decade, from 1990 to 2000.
“For oil wrestlers, Kırkpınar is like a dream,” Taşcı told Anadolu Agency, adding that his dream came true only after years of hard mental and physical training.
“Being rewarded for [my] hard work was more than satisfactory,” he said.
According to Taşcı, the Kirkpinar tournament is the “Olympics of wrestling events,” so beating a single wrestler at this event is more significant than being champion elsewhere.
Taşcı said there is no shortcut to success in oil wrestling, just like any other sport, and his life revolved around wrestling day and night. He criticized today’s wrestlers for shirking their professional responsibilities, saying he had never neglected these in order to reach the apex of the sport.
“I lived for wrestling and so earned championships,” said Taşcı, who started his wrestling career at age 25.
Musa Aktaş, 63, a loyal wrestling fan, said Taşcı was the most skillful wrestler he had ever watched live.
“He wasn't just powerful but also really smart. He could outsmart bigger oil wrestlers. His moves were like a hot knife going through butter; he would make it look so easy.”
Koca Yusuf, or Yusuf the Great, born in 1857, a legendary oil wrestler in the history of the Kırkpınar festival, was famed for his massive size and brute strength.
Serkan Balcı, a 16-year old competing in Kirkpinar this year, told Anadolu Agency that the legend of Yusuf the Great still resonates with the wrestling community and he still serves as a role model for many young people.
“When I heard that he conquered the hearts of foreigners with his skills, I asked myself if I could do as well as he did. This is one of my motivations for being here,” he said.