When Slovenian judoka Mihael Zgank decided to compete for Turkey it also meant he changed his life completely. The 2017 world silver medallist moved to Istanbul in the beginning of 2018 and changed his name to Mikail Ozerler.
It all paid off. A little over a year later, Ozerler grabbed the gold in the Minsk 2019 European Games men's -90kg, his first championship title and the first European judo title for a man from Turkey in 15 years.
"I feel incredible," Ozerler said. "It was a perfect day for me. When I came to the warm-up area in the morning I felt goosebumps all over my body and I knew this was going to be my day."
He feels that his move to Turkey has pushed him to the next level.
"In one way I became a man because I went away from my parents who I obviously love a lot. I had to spend time alone and face some things alone for the first time in my life," the 25-year-old said. "I always had someone at my back - my parents, my family. Now I am alone. I really grew as a person. I think that is the biggest advantage for me."
When Turkey invited him to compete for them, Ozerler grabbed his chance. "I wanted to grow as a person and wanted to take the challenge to grow," he said.
His gold medal in the Minsk 2019 judo tournament sets Ozerler up well for August's world championships in Tokyo, Japan which will be the next step towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.