So, when you hear the word “pehlivan,” that may be all that comes to mind, but you should know that “pehlivan” also means wrestler.
Now for a word of advice: Forget everything you ever imagined when thinking of Turkish wrestlers who are tall and strong — because these days the wrestling mats of Turkey are bringing forth a whole new generation of wrestlers who may just erase any preconceived notions you have about the sport. Yes, with their small size and delicate bodies, these wrestlers might not look strong, but when you see them grab their competitors from the waist to flip them onto their backs, you may think your eyes are deceiving you. Who are we talking about here exactly? The women’s national wrestling team.
Don’t be too surprised by the idea of a female wrestler in Turkey. You must watch them train; we admit that we were a bit shocked by the idea until we ourselves watched a training session. Watching these delicate wrestlers practice their sport reinforced the phrase “strong like a Turk” in our minds. It is also interesting to note that these wrestlers are quite feminine outside the ring: They keep up with fashion, wear high heels when they want and some of them wear makeup.
And never mind that the 2009 World Wrestling Championships, held last month in Denmark, didn’t bring them the results they had been looking for. After all, a number of the female wrestlers they were up against started wrestling before some of the Turkish team had even been born. It’s expected that as this Turkish team gains experience, its success rate will rise, too. The team is now training for the 2011 World Wrestling Championships, which will be held in ?stanbul, and they aim to return from the 2012 London Olympics with a gold medal.
She was headed for gymnastics, but wound up wrestling
We met these women at the Mimar Sinan Hall in Edirne, the Turkish city that has contributed the most wrestlers to the Turkish team, where we spoke with 21-year-old Burcu