Turkish teenager has sights on Special Olympic medal

Turkish teenager has sights on Special Olympic medal
Ali Topaloglu looks to Rio next year after setting Turkish records in shot put and 200 meters

A young Turkish athlete has his eyes on an Olympic medal after breaking shot put and 200-meter sprint records in the country’s special athletics championships last month.

Seventeen-year-old Ali Topaloglu, who has Down’s syndrome, set the Turkish special athletes’ shot put record at 8.95 meters (9.78 yards), beating the previous record by 75 centimeters (29 inches).

At the same event, the teenager from Samsun, on the Black Sea coast, set a record time of 31 seconds in the 200-meter sprint.

“My goal is to ease past my rivals to become the Olympics and world champion,” Ali told Anadolu Agency. “I believe I can make it.”

Ali, whose parents initially encouraged him to take up athletics to make friends before realizing his natural affinity for track and field, said he hoped other people with disabilities would follow his example.

“I invite all my disabled friends to engage in sports like me,” he said.

Despite only taking up athletics two years ago, Ali’s coach Musa Davulcu said the youngster had made excellent progress.

“Ali has now stepped into the social life with sports,” he said. “This is an awesome result for him. It is not only the world championship – he can even get an Olympic medal with such desire and resolve.”

Davulcu said November’s World Championships in South Africa was the immediate target, with Ali expected to set world records in the 200 m and shot put. Then he will focus on training for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.