Swimmer who knocked down young racer disqualified
A former international swimmer has drawn huge reaction after a video showing him knocking down a young athlete just ahead of the finish line went viral on social media.
Tolga Öcal, a 40-year-old athlete of the Üsküdar Water Sports Club in Istanbul, was running to the finish line neck and neck with 13-year-old Seyfi Diker after swimming the 1500-meter Aquamasters Swimming Championships in Turkey’s southwestern resort town of Marmaris in Muğla province on May 5. Just a few meters to the finish line, Diker tumbled down with a shoulder hit from Öcal.
“I got very angry at that moment. I had a nervous breakdown. I was shaking. He told me that he hadn’t done it on purpose,” Diker told Demirören News Agency on May 8.
“He [Öcal] apologized before the medal ceremony. ‘It’s the open water, these things happen here. I started swimming in the open water at the age of 11, elders used to punch and beat us,’ he said to me,” Diker said.
Öcal was immediately disqualified by a jury decision, putting another swimmer, Okan Ulaş, in the lead in the AquaMasters overall ranking in the 1500-meter course with 22 minutes 58 seconds.
The jury also corrected Diker’s result as 22 minutes 1 second, giving him the golden medal in the AquaYouths 11-13 years of age category in the 1500-meter course.
Öcal, for his part, described the incident as a “bump,” insisting that he could not see Diker while running to the finish line.
“The comments made on this incident saddened me. I’m not a person to make such an act against a young person just to get a medal,” he said, blaming the wavy sea, rainy and windy weather and the mist on his glasses.
Öcal shared a photo of him standing and smiling with Diker on social media. But following thousands of salvos against him he had to suspend his accounts.
The Aquamasters Board of Directors stressed that such acts would never be tolerated and a new article was added to the regulations.
“Any swimmers involved in unsportsmanlike conducts of any sort will be excluded from the International Arena Aquamasters Swimming Championships for a year,” a statement by the board read.
The Turkish Swimming Federation also announced on May 8 that a disciplinary proceeding has been started against Öcal.