By Huseyin Dogru
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey's disabled sports federations provide opportunities for athletes to participate in a wide array of sports.
Turkish Sports Federation for the Physically Disabled, Turkish Blind Sports Federation, Turkish Special Athletes Sports Federation and Turkish Deaf Sports Federation are all working with the same objective.
These federations give a chance to disabled Turkish citizens to do sports and talented ones become professional athletes.
Some of these disabled athletes represent Turkey at international events, clinching medals in the tournaments.
- 43,858 disabled professional athletes
According to Turkey's Youth and Sports Ministry data, a total of 43,858 professional disabled athletes benefit from these four federations.
Turkish Sports Federation for the Physically Disabled has 1,179 female and 6,037 male professional athletes -- a total of 7,216 athletes -- with disabilities in 22 branches.
In addition, 20,170 disabled people (14,902 men and 5,268 women) are licensed as professional special athletes in 15 branches.
A total of 10,828 licensed professional deaf athletes (2,003 women and 8,825 men) compete in 24 branches in the tournaments.
Separately, 5,644 people (1,332 women and 4,312 men) are licensed as professional visually impaired athletes.
- Branches in Turkish Sports Federation for Physically Disabled
Turkish Sports Federation for the Physically Disabled chair Arif Umit Uzturk said the number of active branches reached 22 in the federation over the last five years.
"While people with disabilities do sports to heal, we also pick successful ones to take them to international tournaments. We carry out these activities for social responsibility and want to increase their performances. We have achieved significant success in recent years. Athletes with disabilities dream of joining Paralympic Games. I believe that 45-50 athletes will get quota for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Hasan Sayyıdan, president of the Turkish Blind Sports Federation, said important developments have been achieved in Paralympic sports since 2000.
''Our athletes have achieved significant success and we want to work for more achievements,'' he added.
- Turkish disabled athletes start to gain major achievements in international organizations
Turkey Deaf Sports Federation President Yakup Umit Kihtir said that he runs the federation as a hearing impaired person.
He believes that people with disabilities would face difficulties in the world and Turkey, and these challenges can be overcome by doing sports.
Head of Turkey Blind Sports Federation Birol Aydin recalled that Talha Ahmet Erdem and Dogukan Cosar won gold medals as Mehmet Can Topal captured the silver medal in an international judo championship organized for sportspeople with Down's syndrome.
''We have seen children with Down's syndrome or autism overcome obstacles through sports. Families are now proud of their children. We would have previously seen some negative news about people with disabilities, but today we witness their success,'' he added.
The UN General Assembly proclaimed Dec. 3 as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 1992 with the aim to highlight the difficulties and problems of people with disabilities.
*Writing by Muhammed Enes Calli