Serap Ozcelik Arapoglu leads Turkey to glory in Gaziantep
Olympian Serap Ozcelik Arapoglu headed Turkey to a successful and glorious edition of the EKF Senior Championships. The World ranking leader and biggest icon of the sport in Turkey received all the honours Saturday as she became the new European champion and big star of the tournament.
“I am very happy with this title. It has been a very difficult competition, but I am happy that I won the medal,” said the continental champion while she did her best to respond to all the requests for pictures and signatures.
The Sahinbey Spor Salonu sports hall erupted in a celebration on Saturday as Serap Ozcelik Arapoglu was proclaimed European champion in the category of Female Kumite -50kg. With chants of “Turkiye!” and “Serap!” from the stands, the 34-year-old karateka from Istanbul was carried on red and white wings to the top of the podium.
A current World ranking leader and Grand Winner in her category, Ozcelik Arapoglu dominated the competition from beginning to end. The 1st Dan black belt in Shotokan beat Lejla Ahmetovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (3-0), Inji Azizova of Azerbaijan (10-2), and Jelena Pehar of Croatia (5-1) to reach the final in style.
Up-and-coming karateka Erminia Perfetto of Italy was waiting in the final to dethrone the top favourite. The title-deciding bout was a showdown of offensive karate with both athletes exchanging a non-stop series of “Yuko” and “Ippon”. Ozcelik Arapoglu managed to connect an impressive late “Ippon” or three-point technique to win the bout 9-5.
“The final was very difficult for me. I seemed to be overly excited and that kept me going. I did not stop and at some point, I was stressed because things were not going my way. But in the end, I relaxed and could win the match,” said Ozcelik Arapoglu.
The title at home represents Ozcelik Arapoglu’s sixth continental crown. The renowned Kumite athlete won her first European title in 2011, and she recovered the title last year in Porec (Croatia) thus putting an end to a three-year hiatus as the queen of the category in the continent.
Her next goal? Inspire others.
“Yes, it is true that my opponent (Erminia Perfetto) looked happy after the match. It is normal, they are my babies, and I want to help them. New generations (of karatekas) keep coming, but I am still here!” she joked.