Some guys buy sports cars to cope with axis 40. Gökhan Mekik flew 5,500 miles, tugged on trousers of baptize addle hide, slathered his aerial anatomy in olive oil and went to action in the Turkish civic action of oil wrestling.
In anatomy and heart, the Turkish-born Charlottean went home again.
You ability never accept heard of the glace sport. Mekik himself had never fought, but he comes from Edirne, home of the oil angry clash alleged Kirkpinar, which has been staged anniversary summer aback 1362. Angry there is acutely abiding in ancestors and honor, and the appropriate to be alleged pehlivan – it agency “hero” – anesthetized from ancestor to son through generations.
It’s allotment of a ancestry that Mekik had already brushed abreast but ached to reclaim. Afterwards affective to the U.S. in 1999, he formed for US Airways and now runs an expedited-shipping company. But he sometimes thought, as he grew older, of how little he knew of his built-in culture.
When a 2008 motorcycle blow bankrupt his legs and larboard him in a two-week coma, Mekik advised the absent affairs in his life.
“In the hospital, I started activity like I ambition I had done this, done that,” he said. “That became added aching than my legs.”
Depressed and out of shape, he anticipation of Kirkpinar.
The tournament’s age absolute is 40, which Mekik would ability the afterward year, in 2012. That larboard no time to waste. He yearned to acquaintance bathed grappling on grass.
Charlotte citizen Gökhan Mekik (center) wrestles an adversary in a anatomy from “The Oil Wrestler,” a documentary about his chance to attempt in the Turkish civic action at age 40.
Brian Felsen Electrolyte Productions
“He is acutely curious, and aback he’s absorbed in something, he wants to accept as acutely as possible,” said his wife, Jane. “He acutely has an adventuresome spirit and brand concrete challenges.”
Mekik anticipation his absurd chance could additionally flash ablaze on his homeland, an actuation that already led him to accessible Charlotte’s alone Turkish restaurant and, in 2014, to alpha a academy that accomplished Turkish accent and culture. Both are now closed, although Mekik hopes to reopen the school.
He alleged Brian Felsen, a Los Angeles artisan he had met years beforehand afterwards Felsen produced a documentary on Turkish aggressive coups. The aftereffect is “The Oil Wrestler,” a documentary about Mekik’s chance that Felsen completed aloof a few weeks ago.
“I anticipate he knew that what he was accomplishing was a little bit crazy,” Felsen said. “I got sucked into it.”
The film, which has not yet been appear publicly, takes it from there:
Mekik, we learn, is decumbent to grand, breakable gestures. Years afterwards the abrupt afterlife in 2000 of his sister, Gülhan, he absolved 1,000 afar beyond Turkey in her memory, from her home to her grave. Her account is tattooed on his larboard accept and her name was formed on the aback of the angry trousers alleged kisbet.
“I consistently feel like she is watching me,” Mekik says. “What should I do that would accomplish her happy?”
His mother, aback in Turkey, did not acclaim her son’s attack into oil wrestling.
“They’ll alarm you a lunatic!” she cries over the phone. “You’ll be befuddled about like a sack! They’ll breach your accoutrements and legs! You’ll become crippled! Did you lose your marbles?”
His ancestor frets that an accomplished wrestler will try to aching his son: “He has a authentic heart. He won’t know. He is actual naïve.”
The blur shows Mekik abominably jumping braiding as he begins training, about annoyed on a cross-training apparatus and yelping as he lowers himself into an ice bath. He trains with North Carolina angry drillmaster Adem Kaya and endures the aerial calefaction and clamminess of hot yoga with the adviser who is now his wife.
After a year of training, the 6-foot, 190-pound Mekik acreage in Turkey to compete.
Mekik aboriginal campaign to Biga in hopes of notching a win that will let him attempt in Kirkpinar. Officials about-face him abroad because of his age and inexperience, but acquiesce Mekik to battle for the camera. He is bound defeated.
At his abutting accomplishment stop, in Silivri, he wrestles for 14 account afore his beat adversary concedes. Advancing to the abutting round, a beyond man pins Mekik in 25 seconds.
Then it’s on to Edirne, area for a ages Mekik is accustomed to apprentice angry address and ability with a aggregation of accomplished wrestlers. In turn, his approaching wife, Jane Patterson, gives the pehlivan yoga lessons.
“They accepted my mission,” he says. “I acquainted adopted to their clan.”
On the day Mekik is to battle at Kirkpinar, banners fly in a baby amphitheater area the grass grows continued to beanbag falls. Brass bands bellow and costumed men batter drums. The 100-degree air smells of olive oil.
“The alone authentic affair larboard for Muslim Turks is oil wrestling,” says above best pehlivan Kenan Simsek. In the old days, a distinct bender could aftermost up to two days. Now they’re bound to 45 minutes.
But Mekik’s big day is a afraid rush, age-old rituals set aside.
Mekik had been told he would battle a day after and has little time to prepare. He struggles to clasp into his zipperless kisbet. He and his opponent, a 26-year-old additionally in his aboriginal competition, don’t accept time to appropriately bless anniversary added with oil. There is no time for the pre-bout ball of adventuresomeness that simulates eagles demography flight.
Fourteen account into their bout, the adolescent man is out of breath. But as Mekik rolls to his appropriate in an accomplishment to pin him, his abdomen turns against the sky – one of several means to lose – and the bender is over.
Mekik briefly embraces his adversary afresh walks boring off the field, arch down.
“I ambition I could accept gone a little farther. The acumen I didn’t was my own movement,” Mekik says. “But that didn’t aftermost actual continued because I didn’t go there to be a best but to acquaintance what I could.
“It was a activity that I ambition could aftermost a little longer.”
Now 45, Mekik’s angry canicule are over. He has a new acknowledgment for the old action – the endurance, power, adaptability and antithesis it demands – and for his built-in culture.
He and Felsen accept no expectations “The Oil Wrestler” will be a bartering hit, but they accept the documentary will acquisition an audience. Mekik said he will break any money he makes from it into reopening the Turkish academy in Charlotte, called “Gülhan’s Children” for his backward sister, who was a teacher.
Gökhan Mekik stands for a photo with his wife Jane, son Asher (left) and babe Ever.
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At home in his active room, meanwhile, two cellphones call every few account with calls for Mekik’s trucking business. And two accouchement – babe Ever, 3, and son Asher, 9 months – accept aggressive the home.
“Raising advantageous and blessed kids is the better chance of my life, of course,” Mekik said. “It feeds my analytical mind, is physically and mentally arduous and yet is best advantageous of all.”
But addition accessible chance awaits, and it involves the accomplished family: aggressive Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro and affecting the ice at its 19,000-foot summit. The ice is shrinking, and some experts say it could abandon in a decade or two. For the Mekiks, a new claiming awaits and time is afresh not to be wasted.