Footage showing an adult swimmer shoving a child contestant 27 years younger than him during a swimming race in southwestern Turkey mere inches before the finish line has caused serious uproar on social media across the country.
The incident took place on the last day of the International Arena Aquamasters Swimming Races held in the Aegean resort town of Marmaris in Muğla province between May 1 and 5.
During the 1.5-kilometer open water swimming race held off the coast of İçmeler neighborhood, 40-year-old former national swimmer Tolga Öcal charged into 13-year-old Seyfi Diker, who came out of the water first and was just about to cross the finish line. However, Diker suddenly fell and Ukraine's Irina Bolshakova, a former world and European masters' champion who participated in the race as a guest of honor, crossed the finish line in first place instead.
Öcal, not bothering to lend a hand to his younger rival, came in second. Diker finished third and burst into tears as soon as he crossed the finish line.
The former national athlete was competing in the age 40-44 category, while Diker was a contestant in the age 11-13 category. Öcal has won many general classification championship titles in the races held for the 10th time.
Judges and referees disqualified Öcal for his unsportsmanlike behavior and declared another contestant winner in his category. Diker was declared the winner in both his age category and in general classification covering all age categories.
After facing a barrage of angry messages on social media, Öcal released a statement saying he did not see Diker due to the overcast weather and the fog on his goggles. He also shared a photograph taken with Diker after the race and apologized.
Aquamasters said in a statement that Öcal was banned from their races for a year.
The Swimming Federation of Turkey also condemned the incident and said that Öcal was referred to the disciplinary comittee for further investigation.
Aquamasters Board Chairman Selçuk Demirel told Demirören News Agency that there were small sand dunes on the beach due to southwester winds, however, Öcal still needed to be careful in accordance with the competition rules.
Demirel added that Diker and his family expressed their sadness over Öcal's disqualification and subsequent ban from racing for one year, and Diker will be nominated for Aquamaster Fair Play awards.