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The Rise of the Turkish Men's Gymnastics Team

The Turkish men's team is close to earning their first team birth to the Olympic Games. The only thing standing in their way is a top-12 finish.

September 23, 2023

The Turkish men's team is close to earning their first team birth to the Olympic Games. The only thing standing in their way is a top-12 finish in qualifications at the 2023 World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.

History of Turkish Men's Gymnastics

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Republic of Turkey, as it is now known did not exist. However, the record books note Aleko Mulos, a gymnast representing the Ottoman Empire, as the first male Turkish Olympic gymnast. It would be 108 years til another gymnast from Turkey would compete in the world's most prestigious sporting event.

At the center of the rise of the Turkish Men's Gymnastics Program is none other than Olympic medalist, Ferhat Arican. Arican made his international debut at the 2010 Inaugural Youth Olympic Games where he placed second on vault. Later that year, he also made his senior debut at the 2010 World Gymnastics Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Over the next six years, Arican made regular appearances in major gymnastics events including his home World Cup in Mersin, Turkey. There, he and his teammates helped lead Turkey to its best-ever World Cup performance bringing home five of the six available gold medals. Three months later Ferhat Arican became the first gymnast to represent the Republic of Turkey at the Rio Olympic Games.

In 2018, the Turkish men qualified for their first team world championships. Many believed that based on their potential in 2018, they would qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games through the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships – a goal the Turkish team also set for themselves. However, the 2019 World Championships were fraught with both extreme highs and lows for the Turkish team. As is the case for so many athletes, pommel horse ended their dreams after a disastrous rotation that cost them over four points.

In the days following the disappointment of team qualifications, Ibrahim Çolak entered the Still Rings Final ranked first. It was a final stacked with multiple Olympic Champions, yet he delivered under pressure and brought home Turkey's first world championships medal in gymnastics, gold. The following day, compatriot, Ahmet Önder, added to their medal haul with a silver on the parallel bars. Though they did not qualify as a team, the two medalists and Frehat Arican qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games through the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships.

In 2021, Adem Asil earned a birth to the Tokyo Olympic Games by qualifying via the all-around competition at the European Championships. Though they had enough gymnasts to technically field a team, the regulations would not allow them to compete together. Instead, they would compete as individuals. At the Games, Arican brought home Turkey's first Olympic medal in gymnastics, a bronze on parallel bars.

The 2024 Olympic Cycle

The Turkish team has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in Europe over the past three years. With three medal finishes in the last three European Team Championships, including their first-ever European team medal in 2020, they are poised to reach their goal of qualifying a team for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The main challenge standing in Turkey's way is their own consistency. When they show up, they are brilliant but it's getting them to show up consistently at a world-class level that has kept them from reaching their full potential. The Turkish delegation has named the six athletes who will comprise the team of five competing athletes plus an alternate.

Come September 30th Ferhat Arican, Adem Asil, Emre Dodanli, Mehmet Ayberk Kosak, Ahmet Önder, Kerem Sener will have the opportunity to make history for their country.

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