Just The Beginning

Şahika Ercümen Is Another Athlete Who Has Played A Key Role In Promoting Turkey Around The World Through Turkish Airlines’ Transportation Sponsorship.

This young athlete, who broke two world records in Egypt on November 10, still has a long career ahead of her and many records to break.

Like most professional sports, free diving is a branch that strains the human body to its limit. Unlike many other sports, however, it requires more concentration, because even the slightest lapse can pose a risk of death. What do you do to focus when you are diving and training?
Free diving is a sport that demands more mental discipline than actual physical strength. First of all, you have to be able to feel that you are part of the water. I focus on diving through breathing exercises and various meditation techniques. The focusing I do before diving enables me to cut myself off from the world temporarily and think only about diving, and eventually the things going on around me don’t affect me. By applying that in my everyday life as well, I’m able to remain calm and make decisions in difficult situations. 

What is the biggest problem you face when you are training, or when you are trying to break a record?
Although I have no problems at all when it comes to performance, I do experience sponsorship difficulties for organizing my record attempts. For that reason I am very grateful to Turkish Airlines for being my flight sponsor, and to the other sponsors who have supported my world record attempts up to now. Being at a level to break a record and then not being able to organize an attempt due to financial constraints is devastating.

It’s not easy to train and become a professional athlete in Turkey. Did you experience any difficulties when you were training?
I had to cope with classes and the university entrance exams while I was trying to focus on being a professional athlete and training, competing and breaking world records. Inevitably it affected my performance. All through my training I got up at five and trained before school every day. When school got out, I would dash off to training, and when I got home I would study for the exams and work on my school projects. A person is able to sacrifice everything for the sake of his passion. However difficult it may appear, I enjoyed every minute of it. It is focusing on your goal and trying to do your very best despite the obstacles you face that makes success so sweet in my opinion.

You are a graduate of Başkent University’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics. Has your education been useful in your life as an athlete?
I’m so happy about the profession I’ve chosen! Choosing a profession in parallel with sports has had a very positive effect on my performance. I’ve discovered a lot of new things for enhancing my stamina and performance in the special nutritional methods I’ve experimented with myself. Sports nutrition is not a very well-developed subject in our country especially. I’m dying to share my experiences in the field with athletes and people who engage in sports. Unfortunately I cannot practice my profession actively because I’m focused on training for world record attempts. But I’m going to continue with my new nutrition-related projects in the near future.

You say on your website that you’ve broken records but that this is just the beginning. Could you tell us briefly about your goals for the future?
That’s it exactly! I’ve broken records, I’ve put in years of work. I had just graduated from university and immediately there were three world records. I’m in a very advantageous position compared with other athletes in the world in terms of infrastructure, capacity and age. More important than anything else, diving to even greater depths is a passion with me. There’s no reason for me not to break a new world record. My goal is to dive even deeper in the different categories of free diving. Apart from that, I’d like organize free diving camps for the handicapped and engage in efforts to free the dolphins that are being held captive in show tanks.

Şahika Ercümen broke her first world record in the frozen over Weissensee Lake in Austria. She now holds both the men’s and women’s records for that dive in the category, Dynamic Apnea Ice Diving. Ercümen, who swam 100 meters under the ice on a single breath, describes that experience, her first official record: “That record attempt was the moment when I was most able to control my brain, a success I achieved by focusing exclusively on the goal and not thinking about the cold, 2° C water, the darkness, and the fact that the water above me was completely frozen over.”

Ercümen, who adds that she wants to contribute to training the younger generation in the sport of free diving, gives private instruction and participates in training sessions. For more information, visit her official website at www.sahikaercumen.com.