A group of five men in Istanbul, Turkey teamed up to build the largest Masters swim team in the country. 🇹🇷 They also run the Swim4LifeTR Instagram page! We got to hear what the swimming culture is like in Turkey, what motivated them to start a swim team, and where they see the future of the sport headed.

Read below to get to know MySwimPro Community Members Ozan BAYRAM, Halil İbrahim YÜKSELGÜN, Bora NALBANT, Saygın SELÇUK, and Umut SÖNMEZ!

What is the swimming culture like in Turkey?

Swimming is increasing in popularity in Turkey and it has a a lot of potential since there is a big focus on living a healthy life nowadays. Although Turkey has four large bodies on water around the country, it is rare for people to know how to swim and in the past it has typically only been accessible to more affluent communities.

However, there have been recent incentives for almost every school to build an olympic-distance swimming pool, which has helped more people get into swimming, and will continue into the future. This is also helping more sport-academies open, which requires more coaches, and brings more attention to the sport.

 

A lot of people in Turkey are swimming alone and using conventional methods to track their performance. We want to help grow swimming in Turkey so we decided to start our own Masters Swim team in 2013.

We also started a little project called “Swim4LifeTR” This is a digital community for swimmers in Turkey to connect and learn more about the sport.


 

Tell us about the Masters swim team you created:

All of us have had a passion for swimming for a long time and up until the last couple of years, there wasn’t a strong adult swimming community in Istanbul. In 2013, we decided to team up to to build a community of adult swimmers, triathletes, and open-water swimmers.

We created our team YüzmeMania (Swimming Mania) and it now has 100+ swimmers, and is growing every year. It is the largest Masters swimming team in Turkey. Most of us are self-training, but we compete regularly and hold group training sessions once a month.

“I love the high energy and synergy of being on the team. It was the perfect feeling to become a member of a team again. It’s a great feeling to travel to meets with my teammates and to swim against my old rivals from my childhood.” – Umut SÖNMEZ”

Are you using any technology in your swim practices?

Yes, we swim with MySwimPro on our Garmin smartwatches when we train in smaller groups.

When we’re with our big Masters team, we use an iPad that guides us through the workout as our pace clock.

Why did you start Swim4LifeTR?

“Swim4LifeTR” is meant to inspire people in Turkey to become stronger athletes and better swimmers. The main mission of the group is to empower people to start swimming at any age, no matter what social or economical class they are in. A lot of people in Turkey are apprehensive to begin swimming, because it has typically been a sport for higher-income, working professionals. We want to change that.

“At any time in their lives, people can turn their dreams into reality. We believe anyone can be a swimmer.”

What does the future look like for Masters swimming and Swim4LifeTR?

Every year, more swimmers are starting to participate in more Masters swimming competitions. There are a lot of new beginners, but also a lot of elite swimmers in Turkey who will finish their professional careers and get into Masters swimming once they turn 25 years old.

We think that Masters swimming will continue to grow and become an even greater community for beginners, but also an international powerhouse in competitions.

What makes Masters Swimming so special is the stories that come out of the community. Below is a photo of us at the FINA World Masters Championships in Budapest, Hungary with MySwimPro CEO and Co-Founder Fares Ksebati. The FINA Masters Worlds is an amazing group of people with a very diverse set of backgrounds in aquatics. We got to meet swimmers who have been competing all over the world for many decades!

Related: What It’s Like To Race at the FINA World Masters Championships

How can MySwimPro help swimmers in Turkey?

With participation numbers rising in Masters swimming and triathlons, we believe that more online coaching will be needed.

There currently aren’t a lot of organized teams, and a lot of people are training alone. They need help with structuring their training.

“We love logging our swims with MySwimPro and think it can help thousands of swimmers in Turkey.”

What’s your advice for someone who wants to grow swimming in their country?

  • Make swimming a way of life. Do it a lot and have fun.
  • Make friends. Swimming is a great community and it’s only going to grow if more people make more friendships in the sport.
  • Gain experience by attending national and international competitions
  • Use the power of social media to share swimming photos, videos and education about the sport in your area.
  • Talk about your team and always be welcoming to new athletes!

What competitions are you training for?

Our main goal is training for the World and European Championships and the Istanbul Cross-Continental Open Water Swimming Competition. We are also training for at least 1 or 2 local swim competitions.

We are also working to secure sponsors so we can compete at the 18th World Master Swimming World Championships Gwangju, S.Korea in 2019.

Meet the Swim4Life Team:

Ozan BAYRAM:

I am Ozan, and I am 29 years old and own a steel trading company. I started swimming when I was 5 years old at the first swimming club in Turkey which is Istanbul Yüzme İhtisas Kulübü (İ.Y.İ.K). When I was 15 I became a national swimmer, but then took a break off in college when I went to Italy for Erasmus. In 2014, I started swimming again in Masters Swimming.  

  • 100-200 mt. Backstorke
  • 200-400-800 mt. Freestyle
  • Open Water

Bora NALBANT:

My name is Bora, I am 29 years old and I’m an Industrial Engineer and also own a shoe production company.  I started swimming when I was 9 years old and competed professionally in Turkey for a couple years.

  • 50-100 mt. Freestyle
  • 50-100 mt. Butterfly
  • Open Water

Halil İbrahim YÜKSELGÜN:

My name is Halil, and I am 29 years old. I am a swim coach and the owner of an international transportation company. I started swimming at Galatasaray when I was 5 years old and competed in hundreds of swim meets growing up. I used to swim for the Yüzmemania Master Swimming team for 4 years until this year, and now I’m a Masters swimmer for the Galatasaray Master Swimming Team.

  • 50-100-200 mt. Backstroke
  • 50-100-200-400 mt. Freestyle
  • 100-200 mt. IM

Saygın SELÇUK:

My name is Saygın, I am 31 years old, and I am a Sales Manager for an engineering company. I started swimming when I was 6 years old and competed for the first time when I was 11. After swimming for the İstanbul Yüzme İhtisas Kulübü (İ.Y.İ.K) team for 6 years, I competed with the team at the Istanbul Technical University (İ.T.Ü) and graduated in 2012. In 2013, I started my Masters swimming career at the  İstanbul Anadolu Swimming Club (Yüzmemania) and have participated in more than 20 national competitions and a World Championship in Budapest (2017).

  • 50-100-200 mt. Backstroke
  • 50-100-200 mt. Freestyle
  • 50-100 mt. Butterfly
  • Open Water

Umut SÖNMEZ:

My name is Umut, I am 37 years old and I am a software developer. I started swimming when I was 11 years old at Heybeliada, İstanbul and competed a lot as a child. I used to swim at the elite level for the team Heybeliada Su Sporları Kulübü (H.S.S.K.). I also played water polo and underwater rugby. I took some time off from competing in college and started swimming Masters in 2015 in Yüzmemania.

  • 50-100-200 mt. Breaststroke
  • 50 mt. Freestyle
  • 50 mt. Butterfly
  • 100-200 mt. IM
  • Open Water

Thank you so much for telling us your story, we are so excited to hear that swimming is growing in Turkey!

6 thoughts on “The Largest Masters Swim Team in Turkey

  1. Hi Guys! I am an open water swimmer here in California. I will be visiting Istanbul in late May and would like to swim across the Bosphorous. I swim in the Pacific throughout the winter so am not afraid of a little cold water. Is this something I can do without being run over by a large ship? I understand it only takes about an hour or so. Any advice?

    1. Hi Tricia, thanks for your comment! That is so exciting, what a great idea! I would recommend reaching out to the folks here at this website: https://www.swimtrek.com/packages/swimming-holiday-bosphorus-cross-continental-swim

      It looks like that swim would be pretty tough to do alone without a boat escort, so I would personally recommend having a boat alongside your swim. Definitely reach out to the local coast guard or water safety officers in the area before your swim. Thanks and good luck!

  2. Hi! I will be staying in Istanbul from Friday night, March 29th and leaving Monday, April 1st. I do Masters Swimming in the mornings here in San Francisco and would love to swim on Saturday, Sunday and perhaps Monday if there are early morning swims. We will be staying at the Romance Hotel (ROMANCE ISTANBUL Hüdavendigar Caddesi No: 5 Sirkeci Turkey). Do you know if there are any lap pools near this hotel (or a short taxi away)? Any masters swimming programs? Thanks in advance for your help!

    Matt

    1. Hi Matt, thanks for your comment! I recommend reaching out to the guys at Swim4Life TR directly on their Instagram or Facebook. They’ll be able to help you find a pool 🙂 Thanks and have fun!

  3. Merhaba
    Sitenizi ve işinizi sevdi.
    İstanbul’da nerede pratik yapabilirsiniz?
    Yüzme antrenörü olarak çalışıyorum.
    Kolay gelsen

  4. Merhaba ben 1 nisandan itibaren istanbulda calismayacagim, burada İngiltere’de usta bir yüzücüyüm. Masters etkinliklerinde yarışan herhangi biriyle eğitim almak istiyorum. Ayrıca su topu oynarım.

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