Cuban-born Olympic cham­pion finds suc­cess, love in Turkey

A place he calls home as a new cit­i­zen, Turkey also gave Cuban-born ath­lete Yas­mani Copello Es­co­bar the love of his life. The track and field ath­lete and Olympic medal win­ner spoke to Daily Sabah about his time in Turkey, his mar­riage to his Turk­ish wife

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - SERKAN ÜNLÜ - IS­TAN­BUL

HIS name sounds for­eign to many in Turkey, but Yas­mani Copello Es­co­bar has al­ready made his­tory in Turk­ish ath­let­ics in track and field. The Cuban-born ath­lete, who is now a Turk­ish cit­i­zen, spoke to Daily Sabah about his frus­tra­tion at not qual­i­fy­ing for the na­tional ath­let­ics team of Cuba took him to Turkey thou­sands of miles away where he found suc­cess and love, won mul­ti­ple medals and met the love of his life - Elif Koç.

The 31-year-old ath­lete took third place in the 2016 Sum­mer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, sec­ond place in the European Cham­pi­onships in Ber­lin last year and se­cured gold in the Mediter­ranean Games in Tar­rag­ona last sum­mer.

Yas­mani’s story be­gan when his coach in Cuba be­gan to side­line him from the na­tional team. His pas­sion and am­bi­tion led him to hire a pri­vate coach and work even harder. Fruit­ful work­outs and high rank­ings in com­pe­ti­tions over­came the pre­vi­ous ne­glect when Es­co­bar’s road crossed with Fener­bahçe, a Turk­ish sports club that re­cruited him and brought him to Turkey where his life took big turns.

Con­tin­u­ous suc­cess for Fener­bahçe caught the at­ten­tion of man­agers on the Turk­ish na­tional team for track and field. Now, Es­co­bar car­ries the Turk­ish na­tional flag on his chest and com­petes for Turkey since be­com­ing a Turk­ish na­tional and bring­ing home medals af­ter medals in com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing the Olympics and European and world cham­pi­onships.


Es­co­bar not only be­came a star in Turk­ish track and field, he also met his love, Elif, in his new home.

Yas­mani and Elif, who was learn­ing Span­ish at the time, met through mu­tual friends. “We were in­tro­duced through a friend. In the be­gin­ning, we had dif­fer­ent work en­vi­ron­ments, but even­tu­ally we es­tab­lished an en­vi­ron­ment where we work to­gether. Later, a re­la­tion­ship, which ended up in mar­riage, be­gan,” Elif said, talk­ing about the story of her mar­riage pas­sion­ately.

Their mar­riage cer­e­mony took place in Turkey, but they also held a small cel­e­bra­tion in Cuba, as well. Yas­mani said his fam­ily in Cuba was re­ally happy for him and that they showed great in­ter­est in the de­tails of cul­tural dif­fer­ences. He says his friends and fam­ily knew a lot about the cul­tural de­tails as many of them watch Turk­ish soap operas, in­clud­ing one called “Elif.”

Elif said she couldn’t for­get the first time she went to Cuba. “I saw places where he took his first steps as a baby. I have been there three times so far. You can see many peo­ple speak­ing Turk­ish on the street be­cause now there are di­rect flights to Cuba. Cubans have spe­cial sen­si­tiv­ity to­ward Turks,” she said.

Yas­mani lives the Turk­ish life­style as if it is his own. He has em­braced the Turk­ish way of life and has cho­sen to blend in with daily life. He has learned enough Turk­ish to get by. How­ever, sim­i­lar to many in Is­tan­bul, Yas­mani sees traf­fic as the big­gest ob­sta­cle in daily life. He makes sure that he works out seven hours a day and gets eight hours of sleep for his pro­fes­sional ca­reer. Yas­mani also praises Turk­ish ath­letes, say­ing they are very fast and as­sertive. He adds, how­ever, that Turk­ish ath­letes put too much pres­sure on them­selves at very young ages and when they fail, they leave ca­reers. He thinks that this pres­sure neg­a­tively im­pacts them and that young Turk­ish ath­letes should re­al­ize they could al­ways achieve suc­cess in the later stages of their ca­reers.

Yas­mani Copello Es­co­bar com­petes in the semi­fi­nal of the men’s 400m hur­dles ath­let­ics event at the 2017 IAAF World Cham­pi­onships at the Lon­don sta­dium in Lon­don, Aug. 7, 2017.

Yas­mani Copello Es­co­bar with his wife Elif and Daily Sabah’s Serkan Ünlü.

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