Emre Sakci On His Hopes For Turkish Swimming, Switching To Breaststroke And The Peaty Effect

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Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu/ISL

Emre Sakci headed home to Izmir from the ISL with words of praise ringing in his ears after he claimed his place at the top table of breaststrokers alongside Adam Peaty and Cameron van der Burgh.

The Turkish swimmer left Budapest as the second-fastest man in history over 50m breaststroke in a short-course pool thanks to his time of 25.29 in match seven.

That is just 0.04secs off Van der Burgh’s world record of 25.25 that has stood since November 2009 and a European mark.

There was a European record of 55.74 over 100br in match nine – once more eclipsed by only Van der Burgh – before Peaty became the fastest man in history in the semi-final when he stopped the clock at 55.49.

Sakci was a consistent powerhouse throughout the season, raking in jackpot points for Team Iron before they were eliminated in the semis.

There were five 50m first places – including a victory over Peaty in match two – and three over 100m.

By commanding the spotlight on the international stage in Budapest as well as his 50br silver at the 2019 European Short-Course Championships, Sakci hopes there can be a transformative effect in Turkey.

He told Swimming World:

“In my country we try to create a swimming culture: we are a coastal country but we don’t have a swimming culture and we don’t have enough swimming pools.

“If we can create a swimming culture we will get better.”


Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu/ISL

However, while Sakci was making waves in Budapest, he looked on from afar as his home city of Izmir bore the brunt of a devastating earthquake.

At least 115 people were reported killed with many homes and buildings destroyed and parts of the city of flooded.

While Sakci’s family were safe, he found it extremely hard to be more than a thousand miles away.

Before each session he would write Izmir in big, black letters across his heart and following each race, hoisted himself on to the lane ropes and did the heart gesture with his hands.


Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

Speaking ahead of the semi-final, he said:

“To be honest I get mentally tired because I am here from 11 October and I miss my city and I miss my family and our food and my city is in a very bad situation.

“It has been very difficult – absolutely.

“Thank God my family is okay now: but it has been very bad for Izmir and it is still bad.”

Where It All Began, Switching To Breaststroke, Tokyo And Adam Peaty

Sakci was always a water baby. Such was his love of the water in whatever form at the family home that they took him to swimming lessons when he was three.

“Then the journey begins,” he says, and although he loved playing other sports, swimming was where his heart lay.

He had his first competition aged seven and at nine he started training under the stewardship of Türker Oktay, a relationship that continues to this day.

Sakci specialised in freestyle until 2016/17 when he switched to breaststroke, a move that quickly paid dividends as he finished fifth in the 50br at the 2018 World Short-Course Championships.


Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

The pair are based in Izmir where he trains in a 25m pool although he often uses the same facilities in Gloria as Energy Standard.

With a long-course 100br PB of 58.85, Sakci is set to realise his Olympic dream next year in Tokyo.

And he has eyes only for the water.

“I studied before and I may return to my studies in the future but now all my focus is on being an Olympian.

“And maybe an Olympic semi-finalist or finalist.”

He studies other athletes, learning from each and every one of them, but there has never been room for idols.

Sacki did point though to Peaty and how he not only has transformed his events, but also the mindset of fellow breaststrokers.

He said:

“I have huge respect for him of course. He changed breaststroke, he very much changed breaststroke.

“Breaststrokers swim these times now because of him.

“He opened the road for us: he changed every swimmer’s mind.”

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