Sixteen-year-old Beytullah Eroğlu has no arms, but that did not stop him from bringing home Turkey's first gold medal in the European Physically Disabled Swimming Championship held in Germany in the first week of July.
The physically disabled national swimmer from Kahramanmaraş, who has been interested in the sport for nine years, said it was a six-year struggle just to learn to stand in the water. In fact, for those six years, he depended on a boat to swim.
“Three years ago, I managed to leave the boat. I had a very difficult time with no arms,” Eroğlu said, noting, “I began to swim professionally after I learned to float."
But Eroğlu has come a long way from struggling to simply stand in the pool, and he has the medals to prove it. He took second place in a tournament in Slovakia in 2008. That same year, he won silver in the 50-meter backstroke and bronze in the 50-meter butterfly in a tournament in Berlin.
In August 2010, Eroğlu won sixth place in two categories. He also won four gold and two silver medals in the 2011 European Championship qualifiers held in Denmark.
In the European Physically Disabled Swimming Championship held from July 3 to 11 in Berlin, Eroğlu brought home a gold medal in the 50-meter butterfly. With this win, the 16-year-old also brought home Turkey's first gold medal in disabled swimming. He also won second place in the 200-meter medley.
The 16-year-old swimmer said that becoming a European champion was not easy. Eroğlu said that school added to his incredible struggle, but “in the end I brought back the medal for my country.”
With his spectacular win in Berlin, Eroğlu's dream of participating in the 2012 London Paralympic Games was heightened.
Eroğlu's interest in swimming began with the encouragement of physically disabled national swim team coach Osman Çullu at a time when he was studying computer science.
The national swimmer said a large part of his success come from his father, Mustafa Eroğlu, who has sacrificed much for him throughout his life. Eroğlu said he made his father a promise on Father's Day. “I told him that I would give him his gift in Germany,” Eroğlu said, adding, “I kept my promise.”
“I am proud of my son. We await more medals in the Olympics,” said Mustafa Eroğlu.