Turkish Taekwondo Champion Hopes to Fight for Palestine in Rio Olympics

Bahri Tanrikulu hopes 'wild card' will allow him to participate in this year's competition. 'I did not want to stay insensitive to what is going on in Palestine. I want to be supportive of them.'

A Palestinian demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag during a protest against the separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah, Friday, Nov. 6, 2009.
Bernat Armangue, AP

A Turkish taekwondo athlete is hoping to represent Palestine in the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games if he can get a "wild card" from the games' organizers, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported.

Bahri Tanrikulu, a former world champion and 2004 Olympics silver medalist, competed for Palestine in the 2012 London Olympics.

Taekwondo rules allow an athlete to play for any international team if he hasn't represented his own national team in the past three years.

"I have not participated in any international competition for Turkey since competing for Palestine in 2012," Tanrikulu said.

"I did not want to stay insensitive to what is going on in Palestine. I want to be supportive of them," he said.

"Our president and prime minister knew about my situation, they declared their full support for me when I told them about my decision," he added.

Tanrikulu won a bronze medal in the Asian qualification rounds of the Rio Olympics, in which he represented Palestine. According to the rules, however, he needed silver or gold in order to qualify.

But the Turkish athlete has not yet given up and is now pinning his hopes on a “wild card”.

"I won Palestine's first bronze medal in taekwondo. The International Olympic Committee is planning to give Palestine a wild card berth," he said.

If the committee decides to give Palestine a wild card, then "I'll be in the Olympics again at the age of 36. I would like to set a model for Turkish and Palestinian athletes," he added.