Previously viewed as merely a pastime for teenagers, skateboarding is growing in popularity in Turkey after a federation was established in the country two years ago.
In that time, the Turkish Skateboarding Federation registered some 300 licensed skateboarders eligible for international events and the athletes are now looking to represent the country in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Skateboarding was included in the Olympics some three years ago and Turkish skateboarders hope to be the first to bring medals for the country in the fledgling event. The sport made its foray in Turkey in the 1970s and gradually gained popularity among the urban youth but it was only in 2017 that it went professional, opening the floodgates for amateurs seeking to compete in international events.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) in a camp of the national skateboarding team in the northwestern city of Bursa, federation board member Cenk Kulioğlu, a professional skateboarder with multiple Turkish titles, says the federation is still new and needs more facilities and equipment. "Skateboarding is something helping children on the street to turn to sports instead of bad habits. Our federation took it to another level for Turkish skateboarders and since 2017, our racers participated in two international events," he said.
The 12-member team's coach, Muhittin Gökhan Ertan, says the Ministry of Youth and Sports has helped skateboarders by building new tracks and training grounds across the country. "We have a few races to compete in including one in Los Angeles and we aim to garner points there for qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics," he said. Safa Merve Nalçacı, 25, is among few female professional skateboarders and a member of the team. "I always dreamed of representing Turkey abroad in skateboarding and I did it by competing in China. It was a proud moment for me. I hope we will get better and represent our country in the Olympics," she said.