Turkish Paralympians return from Rio Games with record gold medals haul

Turkey’s Paralympic squad left Brazil with three gold medals, trebling their tally at the London Games in 2012. The victories came in Goalball, Powerlifting and Table Tennis. Turkey’s Paralympians won a total of nine medals – one less than their total medal haul in London.

49 disabled athletes represented Turkey in eight different sports in Rio. They were part of a Summer Paralympic Games that saw 4,148 participants from 160 countries compete for 528 medals.

Turkey’s athletes first participated at the Paralymics in Barcelona in 1992. Since then, they have managed modest performances, winning a single gold at each of the last three Paralympic Games (2004, 2008, and 2012). Although their overall medal haul dipped slightly compared to 2012, the current team turned out three Paralympic champions this year.

Turkey’s first came in Powerlifting.  Nazmiye Muslu Muratlı (pictured above) not only won gold in the Women’s 41 kg category, but by lifting 104 kg she also broke the world record. She is also the first Turkish athlete to retain her Paralympics title.

Table Tennis proved another successful sport for the Turks. Abdullah Öztürk took gold in the Class 4 category, beating his Chinese opponent 3-1. He then paired with his brother Ali Öztürk, winning a bronze medal in the doubles.

Abdullah Öztürk was crowned Table Tennis Paralympic champion at Rio

There was another milestone for Turkey in Goalball. Victory by the women’s visually impaired team marked the first time Turkish athletes had been crowned champions in a team sport at the Paralympics. Rio’s golden girls were Sümeyye Özcan, Buket Atalay, Gülşah Düzgün, Seda Yıldız, Sevda Altunoluk and Neşe Mercan, who won all six games in the run-up to the final, before beating China 4-1 to take gold.

Kübra Korkut won silver for Turkey in Table Tennis (class 7). In athletics, Semih Deniz came third in 1,500m T11 event, mirroring his success in the same event at the European Championships in Italy earlier this year. Ayşegül Pehlivanlar took bronze in shooting, with Mesme Taşbağ and Ecem Taşın also winning bronze medals in Judo.

Turkey’s nine medals at the Rio Games – three gold, one silver and five bronze – left them 34th in the medal rankings. After the Closing Ceremony last week, Turkey’s head of Disability Sports Federation (TBESF) Arif Ümit Uztürk told Turkish media this had been their most successful Games.

“There have been unforgettable competitions at Rio. We won three gold medals for the first time in our history. Securing these valuable results has made us even more determined for the future. We can’t wait for Tokyo 2020 where we intend to raise the bar again.”


Main photo by DHA of Powerlifting Paralympic champion Nazmiye Muslu Muratlı after she retains her title in Rio