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Who is Umit Samiloglu?

Ümit Şamiloğlu (29) is Turkey’s only world champion gymnast. While such a success in other fields of sports caused storms of fame, not even a sweet wind was given to him. The story, which begins with a gym-loving father in Ağrı teaching his son the movements he sees on TV on the mats at home, is the beginning of a success that will be the subject of movies.
In the races he entered without a coach, support, money or sponsor, he went from the European championship to the world championship. Ümit Şamiloğlu’s name should be written opposite the word ambition in the dictionary. He’s still at camp now. He is preparing for the world championship in 3 months.

Ümit Şamiloğlu’s father, who teaches in Ağrı, has been interested in gymnastics since his student days. He wants his children to be interested in this sport. He trains his children at home with what he sees from the gymnastics competitions on television. Although Umit often falls on his head and cries and gets beat up, the father is determined.

When he is transferred to Manisa, he looks for a club where both 10-year-old Ümit and his 12-year-old daughter will do gymnastics. His research shows the Bolu Gymnastics School in Bolu, which is still the best gymnastics center in Turkey. Both children pass tests. Since the age of the 12-year-old sister is too late to start this sport, she is eliminated. Although Ümit is past the age of 7, which is the age to start gymnastics, he is not eliminated thanks to his talent and inclination to this sport, but is accepted.

As a 10-year-old boy, he goes to Bolu, where he will study as a boarding student, away from his family. He keeps it up, but his peers are way ahead of him, so no one cares about him. No one has any hope for him anyway. He trains on his own in a corner.
One day, while rocking on the pull-up bar by himself, he falls and breaks his arm. He has completely fallen from the eyes of those who do not hope for him. But he does not give up, after his arm is removed from the plaster, he starts working on his own again. But this time he breaks his other arm as well. Even though those who completely sacrifice him think that this determined boy who is throwing his balls on the trampoline with his plastered arm will be nothing, they will not touch him because he is not a burden to anyone.

But… After his arm is removed from the plaster, Ümit starts to make double flips like a miracle. Just one week later, the juniors will be 10th in the Turkish Championship. The quiet success of this little boy gets the adults shaken up, too. Finally, he has a trainer. He is out of his mainspring now. While his friends sleep at 8 pm, he trains until 11 that night. His coach pushes him, not that coach. Six months later, he is the 3rd in youth in Turkey, and six months later he is the Turkey Youth Champion.


After a while, Ümit’s Bulgarian coach returns to his country as he has not been paid. Umit, who is left without a trainer, is alone again. When the university time comes, he enters Ankara Gazi University Faculty of Physical Education. A year later, when he heard that his coach, who was sent to Bulgaria, was brought back to Bolu, he freezes his school registration and returns to Bolu. Despite taking such a long break from gymnastics, she finished second in the 2001 Mediterranean Games after training for only a few months. But when he returns to Turkey, he is without a coach again. He decides to work with a Bulgarian coach in Bulgaria for a year with his own money. When he says “I’m going” to the Federation, he gets the offer “don’t go, let’s send you to Romania for three months”. But going to Romania doesn’t change anything. Again without a trainer. The Federation, on the other hand, gives a questioning answer to its only athlete who has achieved international success in gymnastics, saying “find your own coach”.

Now he has to pay to stay in the camp in Bolu. While the Federation will be able to make him stay in Bolu for the camp with a letter of permission, that letter cannot be written either. He has two choices: he will either give up or stay there and work on his own until someone kicks him out of school.

Of course he chooses the second option. He has no money, he has no place to stay. Sevtap Aytuğ, a businesswoman from Istanbul who devoted her life to gymnastics, grows up. Now there is someone who takes the responsibility so that he can stay at the school in Bolu. Ümit has no time to look for his trainer far away. He wants his former teammate Şenol Türkdoğan to be his trainer. It works non-stop for a year. When he participates in the 2006 World Championships, his rivals, including the Olympic champions, watch him with admiration and ask each other, “Who is this kid?” She is in Germany just the night before to attend the 2007 Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Germany. He is neither familiar with the instruments he will race with, nor in the hall. He goes in the morning, participates in the qualifiers, makes it to the final and returns to Turkey with the fifth place. It attracts the attention of gymnastics authorities all over the world. There is only one place where it does not attract attention; The country with the flag on his chest… Turkey!


Neither indifference, disability, nor lack of money will stop him. He placed 7th in the European Championship, which was held two months later. A month later, he is in the World Cup finals. Although it is the first time a Turkish gymnast has made it to the final, her country is not even aware of its existence. The support he expected comes from a completely different place, from two Bulgarian and Uzbek coaches who coached other countries during the competition. His ambition and success affect these two coaches so much that they lobby for Ümit. While the whole of Turkey is again in a deep sleep, Ümit achieves a historical success this time and becomes the World Champion.

It goes down in the history of Turkey, but fails to make its way to newspapers and televisions as news. The silence in Turkey does not come as a surprise to him, as he is not accustomed to receiving attention. He again quietly prepares for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which he is targeting this time. Just two days before the qualifiers, he tripped and the muscles in his arm were torn, while he was confident that he would be a big hit. He wants to participate in the Olympics so much that he can’t even see his injury: “When I was putting my arm in a cast at the hospital, I begged you not to take it, maybe it would heal in two days, but they said that I would not be able to do sports again if they did not get the cast. While the athletes I scored were going to the Olympics, I just watched them from afar.”

Ümit returns to Bolu, starts working like crazy because of his ambition, and this time he gets the third place medal in the European Championship. But if one of the shackles on your foot is loosened, the other one is locked. On his return from the championship, he asks the federation for permission to camp in Bolu, it does not come out again!
Ümit Şamiloğlu participated in the Mediterranean Games a month ago, despite all the disregards, and received the fourth most important place in the world this year. Now he is preparing for the World Championship, which will be held in three months. He has two big goals in front of him: to get his squad to Bolu and to do only gymnastics and to participate in the 2012 Olympics by feeling the support of the federation behind him.


While listening to Ümit Şamiloğlu’s story, I keep repeating the same question; Why is he still struggling when Turkey is so persistently unscrupulous in not seeing him? With trembling lips, he gives answers that will make us all bow down: “I guess doing sports in Turkey is like this. No matter how talented you are, you’re getting into a hole. Either the school or the family is getting in the way. I exist not because I have great support, but because I am ambitious. Ambition is also a great talent. It’s stupid to say no one is supportive and leave. Since I am not used to receiving attention, I do not have any expectations. But ultimately, if I represent Turkey under our flag in those rostrums and achieve success, the people I represent have the right to be aware of it. I am trying to serve my country in spite of my country. Maybe the people of my flag that I carry on my chest do not pay attention to me, but the interest shown in the international arena relieves my sadness.”

Ece Nagihan

Hi, I'm Ece. I am a writer for Expat Guide Turkey and I strive to create the best content for you. To contact me, you can send an e-mail to Happy reading!

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