Fate brought them together at a very early age. Mehmet and Tuba Yakan, who are both national and licensed athletes of Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality Kağıtspor Club, met at the age of 17 during a Turkish National Karate Team camp.
They instantly fell in love with each other and had chance to wear the national team’s jersey at international competitions together for years.
Mehmet and Tuba Yakan have participated in many national and international tournaments together. They have had each other’s backs and have won more than 700 medals between them.
After dating for years, they decided to finally get married when they both won medals at an international tournament.
The couple has been married for four years now and they have a one year old daughter named Derin who comes along with them to tournaments all over the world. The baby girl has become the good luck angel of the national karate team.
Tuba won her latest gold medal at the 52nd European Karate Championship and dedicated this medal to her daughter just like Mehmet who did the same with his silver medal that he won at the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games.
Daily Sabah met with the couple and their lovely daughter at the gym they have been practicing at for the next tournament and talked about love, being parents and national athletes.
Daily Sabah: Where did you meet?
There was a World Karate Championship in Morocco in 2009 and we were getting ready for it at a national camp. Tuba and I knew each other but it was the first time that we spoke. Tuba and I were 17 years old back then.
Tuba Yakan: Mehmet saw me and thought I was lovely (laughing).
D.S.: Was it a love at first sight?
M.Y.:Yes it was. I texted Tuba that I liked her and she responded: “We have a game and we need to focus.” I was new to the national team but Tuba had already won gold medals at world and European championships.
T.Y.: World Karate Championship in Morocco was very important for me and I was hesitant to start a relationship with Mehmet. I also refrained from the coaches. However, we shared our feelings for each other and started dating. I won the gold medal at the European Karate Championship in 2013 and Mehmet won the bronze and so we decided to get married that day.
D.S.: You have more than 700 medals combined. You are successful national athletes. How does this success affect your relationship?
We know each other quite well. We back each other up. I become stronger with him.
We have been married for four years and our marriage is going perfect. However, we are at national team camps for 10 months a year. We are training almost all day. Yet, we find time for each other.
D.S.: People usually claim that marriage kills love. Does it?
Since we do not have monotonous lives, we miss each other all the time. The spark that we had in the first day is still there because we are not together all the time. Marriage did not kill our love and in a way the love that we have for each other grew when we had a child together.
D.S.: Do you argue with each other?
We are under a great amount of stress before the championships and of course we quarrel from time to time but we are doing just fine. These things happen when you are under stress.
We try not to tread on each other’s corn.
D.S.: What changed when you became a mother?
I had to leave the national team for a while after giving birth to Derin; however, I started where I left off in a short time. Even though I was up all night, I had to go to the training in the morning. When I started with my training full time, Derin was only two months old. At first, our coaches were taking care of her while I was training.
After becoming a mother, I had to work harder to become as good as I was before and I dedicated my first gold medal after giving birth to my daughter. She is my good luck angel. Mehmet and I pose good role models to other couples. We are the first athletes in the national karate team to get married, have a child and continue with our old routine.
D.S.: You both won medals at the latest European Championship and the Islamic Solidarity Games. What is your dream?
Turkey’s Karate Federation was founded in 1981. This year we receive medals at important championships. As Turkish National Karate Team, we receive 14 medals in 16 different categories at the European Karate Championship. We also won 11 medals in 12 categories in the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku. We aim for medals at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020. Our dream is to become Olympic champions so that we can crown our careers and become legends.
D.S.: Do you train together?
We train together when we are running or working with weights; however, our karate training takes place separately.
My category is different from Mehmet’s. He does kata while I fight. In his category, balance, speed and strength are important.
D.S.: Do you watch each other’s fights?
I get really excited to watch Mehmet fight; more than I do during my own fights. When I lose, I sometimes lose control and begin shouting. During the Islamic Solidarity Games, I was about to break the seats after I lost. I get angry because I work really hard and I know that I can do more. When I win, on the other hand, I scream and jump in Mehmet’s arms.
As Tuba’s category is about fighting rather than style, she gets punched which makes me really angry while watching her competing at the tournaments. It is hard to stand and watch while the love of your life gets punched in the face. We Turks are very sentimental. I shout to support her while she fights. After watching Tuba’s fights, I think I become more exhausted than her.