slippery when wet

WATCH: Thousands of oiled-up men wrestle in annual Turkish festival


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Some traditions are meant to be preserved — the Kirkpinar Turkish Oil Wrestling Tournament in late June / early July is one of them.

For the 661st year (!), men covered themselves in olive oil and braved the heat in western Edirne province to pin down their slippery opponents. The goal is to make your opponent’s back touch the ground — or his “belly face the sky.”

And while an incredible 2,475 wrestlers signed up, only one could win. Cengizhan Simsek took home the top prize after a nearly hour-long final matchup.

To the sound of thousands of spectators, Simsek, 26, from the Mediterranean province of Antalya, was given a golden belt by the nation’s sports minister, Mehmet Kasapoglu.

“God granted me this. I thank God. I put the belt around my neck and fulfilled my dream,” Simsek said.

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The festival is thought to date back to the 1360s when the second Ottoman sultan, Sultan Orhan, supposedly started it as a way to keep his soldiers in peak physical condition. We can think of some other ways to do that which don’t involve gallons of oil, but we’re not complaining. But while the tournament may (or may not) have been the sultan’s brainchild, oil wrestling was nothing new at the time — it’s been around in the region for thousands of years.

Wrestlers must be invited to compete by the Kirpinar master, and must “demonstrate moral character” in order to be considered.

Sadly, video of Simsek’s triumphant victory isn’t available, so here’s a taste of what it might have looked like:

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