With just a few short weeks to go before the 2014 Winter Olympics kick off in Russia, Turkey is preparing the six national athletes who will represent the country this year mentally and physically, including its first ice dancers.
Turkey was allotted six places in three sports for the worldwide sporting competition which takes place Feb. 7-23. Two athletes will represent Turkey in alpine skiing and another two will participate in cross-country skiing. The country will also send a pair to compete in the ice dancing event.
The athlete list is not yet set in stone. Participants will be confirmed by their home country between Jan. 28 and Feb. 5. One man and one woman will represent Turkey in each of the events.
Example on ice
Ukraine-born Alisa Agafonova and Alper Uça qualified for ice dancing in Sochi, having placed at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in September. Turkey is currently working on its ice skating program, in addition to other sports that have historically not been big in the country.
“The result of the hard and disciplined work of our athletes Alper Uçar and Alisa Agafonova, with the support of our federation, accompanied by Russian trainer Alexander Zhulin, is that our country will for the first time be represented [in ice dancing] at the Winter Olympics that will take place Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia,” Turkish Ice Skating Federation Chairman Fahrettin Kandemir noted in statements on the federation's website, adding, “This success constitutes an example for our other branches.”
The duo has been together since 2011, when they won silver at the Winter Universiade held in Turkey's eastern province of Erzurum. They also won silver at the 2013 NRW Trophy competition, held each fall in Dortmund, Germany.
Agafonova and Uçar most recently took 17th place in the 2013-14 European Figure Skating Championships held January 13-19. They placed 13th in the competition last year, which was a major improvement over their previous result of 26th in 2011-12. The pair has come in a distant 28th and 31st in the two years they have attended the World Championships.
The pair is Turkey's third Olympic entry in figure skating. Tuğba Karademir entered women's singles in 2010 and 2006, placing 24th and 21st, respectively. Prior to that, the country only sent Olympians for alpine and cross-country skiing events.
This year's athletes will be competing for the possibility of winning the first Winter Olympic medal in the nation's history, although Turkey has sent representatives to the games almost every year since 1936.
The country will only participate in the alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and ice skating events of the 15-event line up at Sochi. The country is generally more likely to make its mark in Summer Olympic sports such as wrestling and weightlifting.
A grand total of 1,300 medals will be awarded this year, but competition will be stiff for Turkish athletes. Turkey is moving steadily forward, even if it is not on par with the world's finest just yet. It is working on boosting its reputation and performance in a broad range of athletics, winter sports included. However, it takes time to learn to play with the best.
“Success in ice sports requires a long, tough, stable and disciplined period of work. Participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics is a sign of the completion of an important period in this regard,” Kandemir said. His statement rings true for sports in general and it does not apply only to this year or this competition. “For this reason, starting today, our participation in upcoming Olympics is inevitable,” he added confidently.
He speaks to the vast aspirations of the country when he says: “Experiencing the pride of representing our country in the 2014 Winter Olympics is not enough. Our greatest goal is to participate in the 2018 Olympics with more athletes aiming for medals.”