GIRISMEN: "Once in a lifetime opportunity"
She looks like every para athlete we have met: smiling, joyful, courageous, focused! Maybe even a bit more so than the others, because she was the flag bearer for the Turkish team at the London 2012 Paralympic Ceremony a couple nights ago. She is the defending champion in the Recurve Women W1/W2 (wheelchair) category and a candidate for the IPC Athlete Council. In archery, her model is the Sydney 2000 Olympic champion YUN Mi Jin from Korea. “I just loved her style, her technique and she was an inspiration for me” said GIRISMEN. The Turkish athlete seems a very active person. Beside archery, she likes to do scuba diving in the Mediterranean Sea and—her job. After successful studies in business administration, she works for the Minister of Environment and Organisation and will start soon a Master’s degree in Social Policy. We caught up with her shortly after her first match. Flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony! That must be quite an experience? It truly is once in a lifetime opportunity! I was so excited that I actually did not ‘see’ anything, anyone during this lap carrying the flag. It was such an honour and every athlete would certainly love do it once! It must have been hard to shoot the qualifying round in the next day? Maybe my back was a bit sore from the Opening Ceremony, but I would not have changed my decision to carry the flag anyway. The most difficult thing on Thursday during the qualifications was the difficult weather conditions. Rain, strong wind and the temperature got colder and colder. I was freezing by the end of the competition and all of this affected my shooting form. You were again back in action today for your first match in the archery stadium, how was it? I felt better. I shot against Kate MURRAY from Great Britain so I actually was excited to shoot against someone from the host country. There were big cheers in the stadium and it was fun! I had to stay focused on my technique. I felt good in this stadium, but I hope it will be even better tomorrow! Your next opponent, Zahra NEMATI (IRI) seems to be in top form as she shot a new Paralympic record during the qualifications? I have a lot of respect for her. Not only did she accomplish a magnificent performance yesterday, but she is also the world record holder. However, I respect everyone on the field of play. It doesn’t matter if one is ranked No. 1 or No. 64. We are all athletes. First and foremost, tomorrow I need to focus on my shooting form and execute well. I believe I can shoot really well and win against any opponent. Your are the defending champion after all… What are your memories of your title in Beijing? It is very nice to be a Paralympic champion! There is a saying: ‘once a champion, always a champion’ and nobody can take this away from me. However I would love to prove that I am a champion again. In 2008 I won the title in Beijing, but I truly realized this feat when I arrived home. I could share it with my family, my friends and all the people who support me. It was great to see how much it meant for them and for me it is very important to share these moments. Some organisations in Turkey also recognized me as ‘sports person of the year’ and it was a great way to talk about para sport. Were any of them able to come and support you in London? This morning in the stands there were my brother and a friend who lives in London! After Beijing you went on to win the world title in 2009, but you did not get the same results in 2010 and 2011. Any particular reason? I had a surgery in 2010 and I could not compete. I would consider 2011 as a recovery year. This year I have been shooting really well. I have scored my personal best recently at a training camp in Turkey. You are candidate for the IPC Athletes Council, what motivates you? I think that the IPC, like the IOC, is an organisation that needs to promote sports and needs the athletes to play a big part in it. I would like that the athletes’ voice is louder. I have come through all the stages of a sportsman. I was a beginner and progressively I have become an elite level athlete. I know the challenges on the way and I would like to share my experience. What would be the first priority you would like to work on if elected? I would like to promote the sport participation to more para people. I think we are the lucky ones, here in London. We have been able to do sport for a long time, but not everybody has had this chance. I would really love that more people have the possibility to do sport. You would be a good ambassador in an international setting as you seem to get along very well with the other athletes on the field? Archery has just a great atmosphere. My language skills help me a bit as well. My mother was an English teacher and I went to a school in Turkey where all the disciplines were taught in French. I also love to speak Italian but I only know a little bit of this language (smile). We really want to wish you the best of luck in all your endeavours! Thank you!