Young Turkish gymnast wins gold, steals spotlight
ISTANBULA 15-year-old Turkish gymnast has scored a rare victory by winning a gold medal at the Aerobic Gymnastics World Championship held in South Korea this week, while shining a light on successful Turkish athletes in less popular sports who rarely get their time in the spotlight.
Turkish gymnast Ayşe Begüm Onbaşı, who has been training largely through the support of the sports clubs in the western municipality of Manisa and Celal Bayar University, won a gold medal in the 15-17 age category during the 14th Aerobic Gymnastics World Championship held in Incheon, South Korea.
Onbaşı also won a gold medal as part of a trio with Mehmet Ercoş and Deniz Şahin during a competition in the same category.
Largely unrecognized by the public prior to her latest success, Onbaşı is a student at the Akhisar Anatolian High School in Manisa and so far owes part of her rise to the unwavering support of her family, locals schools and the local municipality.
Her parents, both textile sellers at a local market, enrolled her in a ballet course at a very early age and later moved her to the gymnastics course offered by the municipality at the age of eight.
In interviews the gymnast says she does not know the exact number of medals she has won, but newspaper archives suggest she has at least 60 - 35 of which were gold medals, mostly won in international competitions.
“I am my sole competitor. I worked with devotion, discipline and enthusiasm. I competed to get beyond myself and I succeeded,” Onbaşı was quoted as saying by istekadinlar.com, a Turkish website focused on working women.
Onbaşı’s rare success also sparked controversy in her home country, where people have complained about the lack of attention given to the young gymnast, in stark contrast to the bright spotlight on the Turkish national football team, which recently returned dejected from France after a disappointing result in Euro 2016.
Nonetheless, Onbaşı did receive a call on July 7 from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who reportedly congratulated her on her success and wished her a good Eid al-Fitr holiday. Her gold medal brought honor to the entire country, the president reportedly told the gymnast.
Erdoğan also spoke to Onbaşı’s trainer, Gürkan Er, about the sportswoman’s school and family.
Onbaşı’s next step is to prepare for the world’s third largest gymnastics organization, the ISF Gymnasiade 2016, which will be held in Turkey’s Black Sea province of Trabzon between July 11 and July 18. She will also compete at the European Championship next year, according to reports.