The gold medalist archer is a product of his environment shaped by his multidisciplinary training in swimming, arts and music.
When Mete Gazoz hit the final bullseye last week, knocking out Italy's Mauro Nespoli and clinching gold in the Olympic archery competition for men, the timing of his victory was distinctive. Back home, Turkey was grappling with one of the worst wildfires in history and Gazoz's win gave the Turkish people a reason to smile.
Landing in Istanbul on August 2, Gazoz received a warm welcome.
“It's hard to describe my feelings. I feel like whatever I say will be inadequate. At the age of 16, I made a promise to the entire country, and after five years, I am happy to keep my promise,” Gazoz told TRT World in an exclusive interview.
"Actually, it's a trip I went on when I was 3, a dream I've been dreaming about for as long as I can remember. I never doubted that my efforts and sacrifice would pay off. More importantly, no one who knew me had any doubts”.
Born in Istanbul in 1999, Mete Gazoz studied archery from a very young age. He continued his career at Istanbul Archery Youth and Sports Club and at the age of 16, he represented Turkey for the first time at the 2015 European Games held in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In the following years, Gazoz had a string of successes as he participated in various world- class events from the 2016 Rio Olympics to the 2018 Mediterranean Games in Tarragona, Spain, where he won the gold medal.
Gazoz's popularity increased with time but it received a major boost during the 2016 Rio Olympics when Turkey's famous footballer Arda Turan, who plays for the Galatasaray club, spoke highly of Gazoz.
He is a product of his environment, which was largely shaped by his father Metin, a former national athlete in archery.
“My father brought archery into my life as a game without exhausting me, without squeezing me, without pressing me, it was my favourite game. I'm so happy that I converted my favourite game as a kid into my profession,” Gazoz said.
Gazoz credits his father Metin for planning the most crucial stages of his career. Under Metin's supervision, Mete took a swimming course until the age of 8 with the aim of strengthening his shoulders, which is a key strength in high-quality archery. On his father's advice, Mete also played basketball so as to improve his coordination skills and use them in archery.
To improve his eyesight and attention span, Mete took a painting course for 1 year and a piano course to enhance his eye-hand coordination.
Eventually, after years of training and Metin's tenacity to make his son a world-class athlete, Mete lived up to his father's expectation, the best gift a son could give to a father.
“First of all, I am proud to raise a son and athlete who achieved such success at a young age. It is such an amazing feeling,” Mete's father Metin Gazoz told TRT World.
“There is a two-stage run behind this championship. The first is the basic infrastructure work carried out before Rio 2016. He went through various training programs for his physiological and psychological development such as his activities related to painting, music, art. Various sports activities such as basketball, swimming, which we provided him in order to improve him physically,” he said.
Prior to his latest victory in Tokyo Olympics, Mete Gazoz broke three more major records as a result of his shooting in the ranking rounds of the European Grand Prix 2019 race in Bucharest, Romania. Fetching 698 points, he ranked first in the competition.
Mete is now preparing for the upcoming World Archery Championship, where all eyes will be on him since he will be participating as an 'Olympic champion'. The event will be held between September 19 and 26 in the American city of Yankton in South Dakota.
“All my competitors will be watching me and they will get prepared with a particular motivation to defeat the champion of the Olympics. For me, this is not an issue. As I've always said, if you don't compete with anyone but yourself, you have no stress, no fuss, no excuse. It's not about underestimating your opponents, it's about taking yourself seriously enough.”
His father Metin supports that thinking as he also hopes that his achievement in the Tokyo Olympics will not cause any "extra pressure" on his son.
“I expect a new world record and gold medal from him. If there's no setback, Mete will come back with a medal,” Metin said.
Mete's message to younger athletes is to never give up and keep working hard.
“My family, my coach, my team and I work with amazing coordination. I've had a lot of advantages, especially working with such a professional team. Turkish people believed in me, I was aware of the fact that how much they love me, it has literally been the main source of my motivation,” he said.
“We will achieve many more together in the future.”