We got the lowdown on the race from last year’s eldest competitor from 71-year-old Fatma İnci Okutan, who also holds numerous Turkish records.
How long have you been participating in the race? “Since 2011. I have two gold medals. I completed the 2015 race in 1 hour 51 minutes, which took that long because of the southwesterly winds.”
How do you prepare for the race? “I swim regularly. I’m a member of the Hatur Ban Swimming Club, so I train with them on Saturdays and Sundays. I’ve also started swimming at Büyük Kulüp on the Asian side three days a week.”
Why do you think the race seems to be more popular with foreign swimmers than local ones? “Turks don’t seem to show a lot of interest in it. This year I attended the European Aquatics Championships in London for the first time, where I was the only Turkish swimmer over the age of 70. I always try to compete with myself, and I enter every race trying to break the Turkish record.”
How does it feel to swim across the Bosphorus? “It’s wonderful to swim in a place we know so well. I enjoy taking in the view of the seaside mansions. Last year we had a hard time due to the southwesterly winds. You have to swim down the middle so you don’t get pulled by the current – and since the currents change all the time, even if you swim across the Bosphorus a thousand times, no two experiences are alike. That’s one of the best things about swimming here.”