SPORT

Slackliners gather in Turkey’s Levent Valley for outdoors fest

Dozens of slackline enthusiasts gathered in eastern Turkey's Malatya province last weekend for the Third Annual International Outdoor Sports Festival.

The festival is organized by Malatya's Akçadağ Municipality each year in the Levent Valley, a natural wonder with rock layers dating back 65 million years.

Athletes walked slacklines stretched 240 meters from the ground across scenic gorges as onlookers held their breath.

While it may seem like a dangerous endeavor, the president of Turkey's Slackline Association assured attendees that the sport is in fact very safe.

"For people looking from the outside, it seems like something unimaginable," Nuri Kayserilioğlu, who is also an athlete in Turkey's Slackline Sports Club, told Ihlas News Agency (IHA).

"While they watch us, they are getting excited and also praying for us. On the other hand, some try to discourage us by saying we will fall," he said.

In reality, however, slacklining is actually quite safe, recording much fewer injuries than contact sports such as football, Kayserilioğlu explained.

"We are not addicted to adrenaline, or we are not wanting to constantly challenge death. Taking all safety precautions, we are just trying to push our own boundaries within safe limits," he said.

The athletes take precautions to minimize risks, using secure connections points and strong lines, as well as walking on two lines in case of a possible break.

Slacklining athletes from Turkey have traveled internationally to pursue the sport, catching birds-eye views of breathtaking vistas, Kayserilioğlu said. The festival in the Levent Valley is one of the few in Turkey and has attracted athletes from around the world.

At the first festival held in May 2017, Swiss slackline athlete Samuel Volery broke a world record by walking 1,210 meters (3,970 feet) on a slackline at a height of 240 meters.

Slackline athlete Melek Akbulut, who traveled from the Black Sea province of Trabzon to participate in the Outdoor Sports Festival, told IHA: "This year is my third time coming here. I find the opportunity to do every sport here."

Kayserilioğlu said there is a shortage of opportunities for slacklining in Turkey.

"People cannot find the opportunity to train, cannot find materials and cannot find an instructor or friends to train with," he said, noting that their aim in establishing the association is to spread slacklining in Turkey.

"We are working to get support and sponsors and acquire materials to send to those who need them and to develop trainers," he said.

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