Ali Gürbüz Claims Fourth Title at 660th Kırkpınar

Gürbüz defeated Koç to earn his second consecutive title as Turkey’s chief wrestler. He triumphed over 2,160 other entrants, who came from across the country to the northwestern city of Edirne to compete in the centuries-old tournament.

By Julie Al-Zoubi
Jul. 12, 2021 13:02 UTC

After a year-long hia­tus due to the Covid-19 pan­demic, Ali Gürbüz won his sec­ond con­sec­u­tive title at the 660th edi­tion of Turkey’s Kırkpınar olive oil wrestling cham­pi­onship.

Gürbüz defeated Ankara native İsmail Koç after 48 min­utes to claim the title of Başpehlivan or chief wrestler. In addi­tion to the pres­ti­gious title, Gürbüz received 60,000 Turkish Lira (€5,860) in prize money, a gold medal and a cup. Koç was awarded 38,000 Lira (€3,710), a sil­ver medal and a cup as run­ner-up.

We would like to thank all our fans who sup­port us and are with us with their prayers.- Ali Gürbüz, 660th Kırkpınar cham­pion

This year’s tri­umph brings Gürbüz’s vic­tory total at what is con­sid­ered to be the world’s old­est sport­ing event to four, includ­ing wins in 2011, 2012 and 2019. (Gürbüz also won in 2013 but was later stripped of this title after test­ing pos­i­tive for a banned sub­stance.)

We would like to thank all our fans who sup­port us and are with us with their prayers,” Gürbüz wrote to his sup­port­ers on Facebook after the win.

See Also:Kirkpinar Coverage

He tri­umphed over 2,160 other entrants, who came from across the coun­try to the north­west­ern city of Edirne to com­pete in the cen­turies-old tour­na­ment. Due to the pan­demic, all par­tic­i­pants were required to sub­mit a neg­a­tive PCR test within 48 hours of the com­pe­ti­tion to par­tic­i­pate this year.

The three-day event, which UNESCO rec­og­nized in 2010 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, did not pass with­out drama. Recep Kara, the 2016 cham­pion, fainted dur­ing a match with Koç in the third round and was taken to the hos­pi­tal by ambu­lance.

One of the country’s lead­ing wrestlers, Ismail Balaban, from Antalya, who won the com­pe­ti­tion in 2013 and 2017 did not par­tic­i­pate in this year’s com­pe­ti­tion. The 33-year-old recently won Turkey’s pop­u­lar real­ity com­pe­ti­tion, Survivor.

Balaban’s time on the real­ity show was marred by con­tro­versy after insults were hurled at him by another com­peti­tor and the Kırkpınar gov­er­nor demanded the wrestler quit the hit tele­vi­sion show.

Thousands of fans from all cor­ners of Turkey trav­eled to Edirne for the 660th Kırkpınar, which took place in a field in Sarayiçi, to watch the wrestlers com­pete.

Kırkpınar com­peti­tors wres­tle in tra­di­tional leather pants known as kıspet. The shirt­less wrestlers are drenched in olive oil to make it more dif­fi­cult for their oppo­nent to grip them and grap­ple until one of them is knocked onto his back. An esti­mated two tons of olive oil are used dur­ing the event.

The ori­gins of the com­pe­ti­tion date back to 1357 when a group of Ottoman sol­diers stopped near present-day Edirne. To pass the time, 40 of the sol­diers decided to wres­tle in pairs. After the rest had stopped, the last two wres­tled into the night and were found dead the next morn­ing.

There was no win­ner, but since then, the event has been held annu­ally, except for 2020, with par­tic­i­pants wrestling in pairs until only one man is left stand­ing.

Over the past 10 years, the com­pe­ti­tion has been notice­ably dom­i­nated by wrestlers from the coastal city of Antalya The Fatih Atlı, from Samsun, won the title in 2014 and Kara in 2016, who is from Ordu.


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