An Artist in the Water

21 April 2014 Comments Off on An Artist in the Water


Sports are a way of life at Bilkent. Our teams are in competition throughout the academic year, and some students post impressive individual achievements. But this article is about an instructor at our university. Kağan Olguntürk, who teaches in the Department of Communication and Design, has come in second in the 800-meter event at the master’s level in the Turkish Swimming Federation’s Spring Cup swim meet.

Mr. Olguntürk is someone who has successfully combined family, academics, art and sports. His first sport was tennis, which he began playing when he was 6, continuing until he had an accident at age 17. This prevented him from participating in sports for a short time. But he soon resumed those activities that he did for fitness, and added swimming to his portfolio a year and a half ago.

Initially, Mr. Olguntürk regarded swimming, too, as a means to fitness and had no plans to compete. But as he improved in the sport, he started participating in races.

Currently, he trains for an hour and a half, four times a week. Two of these sessions are purely for fitness, while on the other two days he trains with a coach. His only opponent is himself. “It would make me happier to come in sixth and set a new personal record,” Mr. Olguntürk says, “than it would to come in first but not improve upon my own best time.”

In addition to training, he watches what he eats. He has a meal plan that was prepared by Bilkent’s nutrition information center, and eats and works out like a professional athlete.

Mr. Olguntürk had initially wanted to compete at the 1500-meter distance. He even broke the Turkish record for his class twice during training, but he then learned that the federation had stopped holding the 1500-meter event, so he switched to the 800-meter distance.

As noted above, Mr. Olguntürk was not an experienced competitive swimmer. He had his first racing experience in the Winter Cup races that were held in İstanbul. He was expecting that only a few people would race; instead, he saw that 120 swimmers would be competing in the 800-meter event alone. He was astonished, and a little anxious. But he learned through this that experience was an important factor. At the recent Spring Cup meet, he also swam a 50-meter race in order to adapt to the competitive environment. It seems that this strategy paid off, given his second-place finish in the 800.

When I asked him about the difficulties of balancing the roles of instructor, father, artist and athlete, he answered me with an anecdote. One of his professors had once said to him, “An artist is a person who solves problems.” Yes, doing a number of different things well seems difficult, but as an artist, Mr. Olguntürk appears to have succeeded in solving this problem.

He has five races coming up. Two of them will again be pool races, but three will be long-distance events in open water. He will be competing in the Meis-Kaş race (8.5 km), the Istanbul Bosporus race (7.5 km) and the Çanakkale Bosporus race, all of which will be held in the coming months.