Paralympic campaign gets under way for Turks
Turkish athletes prepare for the opening ceremony of Paralympic Games at the Olympic Village in London. A team of 67 Turkish athletes will compete at the Paralympics. AA photoThe Paralympic Games started Aug. 29 with 11 events as Turkish athletes competed in archery, wheelchair basketball, goalball and judo events on the first day of the quadrennial competition in London.
The Turkish men’s wheelchair basketball team will face off against the United States while the men’s goalball team takes on Sweden as the country makes its debut in team sports in Paralympic Games.
Oğuzhan Polat, Zafer Korkmaz, Mustafa Demir and Özgür Özen will kick off competition in the ranking rounds of the men’s individual recurve. Polat and Korkmaz compete in the standing category, while Demir and Özen are participating in the wheelchair category.
Gülbin Su will also participate in the women’s individual compound ranking rounds today.
One of Turkey’s greatest medal hopes, Gizem Girişmen will start the women’s individual recurve round Aug. 30. Girişmen was the first-ever female Paralympic gold medalist with her success in 2008.
In women’s judo, Gülhan Kılıç competes in the 52kg quarterfinals, the only medal event that a Turkish athlete is competing in on the first day of the event.
Mustafa Gülpınar, the head of the Turkish Sports Federation for the Physically Handicapped, said that the hopes were high within the Turkish camp.
“I hope that our medal tally will go higher than Beijing,” Gülpınar said. “All our athletes have competed in international events and have made their way to London with victories before, so they are all medal contenders. But I don’t want to make assertions that may put our athletes under pressure.
“If our athletes do their best, medals will come,” Gülpınar said.
Turkey is sending its largest group of athletes ever to the Paralympic Games in London with 67 athletes, more than four times the number sent to the 2008 Beijing Games.
Turkey had eight athletes in 2004 at Athens and 16 in 2008 at Beijing. Turkey completed both events with one gold medal and one bronze.
The main reason for the massive increase is that Turkey will be represented in team sports for the first time, with basketball, futsal and goalball teams heading to compete at the 2012 Paralympics, which will run until Sept. 9.