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Kırkpınar oil-wrestling tournament

In Entertainment on 13/07/2011 at 16:31

Last weekend, I was in Edirne (Eastern Thrace) for the annual oil-wrestling tournament. Kırkpınar, one of the country’s oldest traditions, has been staged there for 650 years. Three days in a row, hundreds of wrestlers pour olive oil onto each other and fight in black pants made of cowhide (named “kispet”). Some are as young as 11 years old. But the dream of every pehlivan (wrestler) is to become a “chief wrestler”, a “başpehlivan”.

This year’s champion is a 24-year-old Goliath from Antalya, Ali Gürbüz. He claimed his first title (and the 14-carat gold belt) against Recep Kara, a four-time winner in the Kırkpınar arena. But there is more to the story: Ali’s father, Recep, won the gold belt in that same arena 23 years ago. He died a few months later, when Ali was a one-year-old kid. Seconds after his victory, Ali Gürbüz toured the grassy field holding his father’s photo.

Kırkpınar entered the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage last November.

Click to learn more about the Kırkpınar legend and wrestling techniques.

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