Story By: Feza Uzay, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
A teenage girl horrifically burned not just once but twice who was bullied at school because of her appearance and then lost her dad to cancer has rebuilt her life by becoming a top martial arts athlete.
But Dilara Sultan Arpaci, 19, who is taking part in a world championship challenge next year and has already won top honours in other contests, is now facing her toughest fight back home after battling to help her mum get treatment to survive cancer.
Dilara is the child of a Russian mother and a Turkish father, who lives in the district of Kemer in the Turkish province of Antalya.
She had most of her body burned at the age of four when her dress caught fire when her twin brother started playing with a lighter.
At the age of six, her injuries were made even worse when boiling water was poured down the left side of her face after a pot on the stove was accidentally overturned.
By the time Dilara was seven years old, she had undergone 18 surgeries to deal with the worst of the burns on her face and upper body, with skin taken from her legs transplanted to some of the most badly damaged areas of the body.
Dilara, who did not want to go out in her childhood because of her burn scars, said in an interview with Newsflash that her friends were constantly making fun of her while she was at school, which upset her and made her a recluse.
In turn, the loneliness made her irritable and aggressive, and her mother in an attempt to channel that emotion had encouraged her to try kickboxing.
It was then she discovered her passion, winning the gold medal at the age of 10 in her first Turkish Championship, which she attended in the 10th month of her kickboxing training. However, she took a break from sports when she lost her father due to cancer in the same year.
She then started again at the age of 12 after her mother urged her to restart training. Dilara then regained the title of ‘Kick Boxing Champion of Turkey’ in the championship she participated in the same year.
After achieving further successes in national events over the next three years, she then started the sport of muay thai, known for its hard-hitting fights among martial artists.
That was four years ago, and she has not looked back since then.
She won the silver medal in the European Muay Thai Cup in 2018 and the gold medal in the same tournament in 2019, but was unable to participate in the competitions last year due to the pandemic.
While preparing for the next championship, Dilara is also dealing with her mother who has now also been diagnosed as suffering from cancer.
She has taken out a loan to pay for treatment, and has also set up a Just Giving page to try and help with the repayments (https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/teengirlkickboxer).
Speaking to Newsflash about what she has been through, Dilara said, “We have never been a well-to-do family. When I was a little girl, I was making money selling corn on the streets during my father’s illness.
“While I was living through the difficult days we had as a family, I was also dealing with the bullying of people who looked at me with pity or disgust because of the burns on my body.
“My mother, who has cancer, is getting worse, and I am trying to support her during her treatment. On the other hand, I train non-stop to win the gold medal at the 2022 World Championship.
“My only goal is for people to talk about my success as an athlete, not the burns on my body. I also want to give my mother the moral support she needs with my achievements.”
The location for the 2022 Muaythai World Championship, which is being organised by the IFMA (International Federation of Muaythai Associations) has not yet been announced.