Turkey’s veteran ice skater pursues his love for 65 years
Fehmi Tekelioğlu’s love affair with ice skating started with a frozen pond at a park in the Turkish capital 64 years ago. The year was 1956 and he was 9 years old.
“Gençlik Park’s pond was frozen at minus 19 degrees Celsius. I was mesmerized by it. Ankara did not have an ice rink then. We started skating on the pond or poured water on the ground and waited for it to freeze,” the 74-year-old told Anadolu Agency.
Gençlik Park, named after the Turkish word for youth, is one of the oldest green spaces of the capital.
“We fell into the icy water when the ice broke. But we never gave up. We would wait for our clothes to dry and then resume skating,” he recalled.
Tekelioğlu even worked for a foreign ice-skating revue as an usher.
“I was so impressed by the show of the ice revue that I walked into their tent. I wanted to work voluntarily. Then, I became the usher guy. I also did other things such as cleaning skates for them. They taught me many things in return,” he said.
This childhood playtime activity turned into a serious hobby with time. He founded an ice-skating society in 1967 and it was officially registered as a sports club in 1972.
Nine years later, Ankara inaugurated its first ice rink at Kurtuluş Park, a milestone for the sport.
“Once the rink opened, I started giving ice skating courses.”
When asked who should join the sport, Tekelioğlu said anyone who can walk.
“As of the age of 4, everyone who can walk can do ice skating,” Tekelioğlu said.
He said the sport improves balance, adding that ice skating is a compulsory course at schools in Nordic countries.
Tekelioğlu said that regular practice leads to perfection.
He said he hoped that his students will go on to participate in the European and world championships and the Olympics.
“We are very successful in lower age groups, however, in the progress period trainings coincide with university entrance preparation period. Students spare less time for trainings because they have to study for the school exams. If national athletes were given extra scores [in the exams] they wouldn’t skip the trainings, and we would have more chance to attend the Olympic games,” said Tekelioğlu.
Turkey established Ice Skating Federation in 2006 and is a member of the International Skating Union (ISU).
Separately, Turkey has an ice hockey federation and a super league, which was founded in 1993, as well as national teams in men’s and women’s categories.
According to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), Turkey has 30 indoor and two outdoor rinks.