Her journey from taking up swimming to improve muscle development due to her Down syndrome to breaking world records has inspired Turkish swimmer Irem Öztekin to coach a new generation of athletes.
Born with Down syndrome, Oztekin was only 12 years old when her parents decided to sign her up for swimming classes in an attempt to help her muscles develop properly.
And in just seven years, she not only mastered the sport but went on to break world records.
Her first medals came in 2017 when she won five competitions and broke two world records in Paris at the European Swimming Championships organized by the Down Syndrome International Swimming Organisation (DSISO).
Since then, Özdemir has gone on to win more than 100 medals, including 10 in international competitions.
Now, at age 19, she has been accepted into Ege University’s coaching program where she will learn how to reach out to more youth with her condition and show them the wonders of swimming.
“I really like being in a pool. It allowed me to win medals. Now I have been accepted into the university I have been dreaming of. I hope to continue studying just as hard and train successful athletes when I graduate. I hope I can achieve that,” Öztekin told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Expressing how proud she is of her daughter, mother Melek Öztekin said she could never have imagined that Irem would come this far when she first enrolled her in swimming lessons.
“I also have an older daughter and when I was taking her to school, I would ask myself whether I would be able to take Irem to school one day. And now she is in Ege University. I am proud of my daughter,” she said.
Öztekin’s coach Mert Onaran said her life story should be an inspiration for many.
“Irem is very devoted. That’s why she is so successful. She tries her best to follow our instructions. I believe she will make a great coach herself one day. Her life is a success story, and I believe she should be an example for all,” he said.
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