Focus On The Ability

The 2012 London Paraliympic Games made history for many reasons: with 2.7 million tickets sold, they were the first sold out Paraliympics; with 4,269 athletes from 164 nations, they were the largest; with 298 new world records and Paralympic records set, they had the best performances ever In disabled sport.

A long time has gone by since Sydney Paralympics, where the only Turkish athlete was swimmer Ali Uzun. In 2000, like today, Turkey’s swimming coach was Osman Çullu, who says: “We have come a long way. In London, for the first time we had a female swimmer in the team and both our swimmers, Beytullah Eroğlu and Özlem Baykız, reached the finals. Last year, at the European Swimming Championships for the Disabled, Beytullah became European champion in the 50m butterfly and Özlem got a bronze in the 100m breaststroke. The Paralympics, however, are a different story. We have come as far as we could with our own individual efforts, but in order to get to the next level we need more resources and a stronger system behind us.”

In a country where disability affects 8 million people, the importance of sport as a tool for social inclusion should not be underestimated. London 2012 taught us that focusing on what disabled people can do, rather than fearing what they cannot do, and investing the necessary resources to make our societies more disabled-friendly is a civil duty and an excellent economic investment. It proved that disabled sport events are not just small side events to main able-bodied events, but can be big sporting events in their own right, and this has contributed to change perspectives about people living with disability. Hopefully, it will not remain as a nice parenthesis, but will be the catalyst for an epochal change with long lasting effects in the daily lives of millions of disabled people around the world. See you in Rio, with an even bigger Turkish team.

1.Mehmet Nesin Öner ran the men’s 400m and 800m T12 qualifying rounds. In every discipline, athletes are classified according to their disability and level of impairment.

2.Özlem Baykız is the first female Turkish swimmer to qualify for the Paralympics. She reached the final in the 50m freestyle S6, in the 50m butterfly S6 and in the 100m breaststroke SB6.

3.At the Games, Nazmiye Muslu won the gold medal and set the new world record in the women powerlifting 40kg category with a 109kg lift.

4.Turkey had only 1 athlete in Sydney, 8 in Athens, 16 in Bejiing and 69 athletes in London, where they competed in swimming, judo powerlifting, table tennis, athletics, shooting, archery and wheelchair basketball, more disciplines than ever before.

1.Beytullah Eroğlu, Özlem Baykız and their coach Osman Çullu leave the Olympic Village for the Acquatic Center on the day of the women’s 50m butterfly S6 final and the men’s 50m butterfly S5 final.

2.Cahit Kılıçaslan reached the final in the men’s 1500m T46 category: “Running in front of such a crowd was incredible: I wish we had some spectators at our disabled sport events in Turkey.”

3.Judoka Nazan Akın explains to her coach Muzaffer Ulucam that she didn’t hear the referee announcing the start of the match, and for this reason she was caught off guard and quickly defeated in the women’s +70kg category final by China’s Yuan Yanping. Another Turkish judoka, Duygu Çete, got the bronze in the women’s 57kg category.