Abbas Sakarya

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excerpt from the article An Armenian Island on the Bosphorus:

October 2, 2017


I will conclude with a personal anecdote. I was also a high school student at Robert College. Our gym teacher was Abbas Sakarya, a sports legend in Turkey, the first Turkish wrestling champion who won international gold medals, the first accredited gymnastics coach, the first founder of a swimming academy, a very strict, severe man who never cracked a smile. Robert College held annual Bosphorus Crossing swim races from the Asian to the European side. The width of the Bosphorus Strait is about a mile but with the treacherous currents, one has to swim double or triple that distance during the crossing. Along with dozens of other university and high school students, I also participated in the race and I ended coming in second among the high school students. Sakarya congratulated me and along with a rare smile, he whispered into my ear: ‘Abris,’ in Armenian, roughly translated perhaps as ‘Bravo.’ At the time, I thought he may have used that word as a complement because he knew I was Armenian. But years later, near his death at age 97, I found out that this Turkish legendary sportsman and teacher was in fact a hidden Armenian from Bursa, an orphan of the genocide.

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