Turkey aims to finally strike gold at the Olympics
|Nevin Yanit won the women's 100m hurdles in Barcelona with a new national record
time of 12.63.
Turkish athletics success at the Olympic Games has been limited in the past but, buoyed by a record three gold medals this summer at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona, the athletics federation has set its sights higher for London in two years time.
“We attended the 2008 Beijing Olympics with 16 athletes but we want to send at least 25 athletes to London,” said Turkey’s athletics federation president Mehmet Terzi, in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman.
“Once upon a time, we were competing to win only in Balkan or Mediterranean events. But now the medals we have won in European and World Championships have raised the bar. We know our responsibilities and duties. We are now focusing on 2012. We want to win at least four medals,” added Terzi.
In Barcelona, Turkey’s three gold medals – all by women: Alemitu Bekele in the 5000m, Elvan Abeylegesse in the 10,000m and Nevin Yanıt in the 100m hurdles – meant the country finished fifth in the medal table.
The trio also had success on the international athletics circuit, including Samsung Diamond League meetings.
The hat-trick of Barcelona triumphs has given Terzi optimism that a Turkish athlete will also win their country’s first ever Olympic gold medal in London.
|The duo of Alemitu Bekele and Elvan Abeylegesse dominated
the 5000m final in Barcelona taking the gold and silver medals
To date, Turkish athletes have only ever won four medals at the Olympic Games.
Ruhi Sarıalp got a bronze for the men’s triple jump in 1948, Eşref Apak got another bronze in the men’s hammer in 2004 while Abeylegesse won two silvers in the 5000m and 10000m in Beijing two years ago.
“We now have an Olympic squad that comprises 47 athletes. We have programs to bring these athletes to the Olympic threshold [to earn a berth to the games]. The 47 athletes train in special camps,” added Terzi.
Yanıt is currently in South Africa training while Abeylegesse and Bekele are in their county of birth, Ethiopia, preparing for the year ahead which includes the 2011 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Paris on 4-6 March and the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, in August.
Providing Turkish athletes with the an ideal start to the Olympic year, they will have the chance to compete at the highest level in front of their home crowd when Istanbul hosts the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Athletics.
“It is important to host such large events as a candidate to host the Olympics. We will also go for European championships in 2015 and 2016. A number of officials told us to submit a bid for the 2017 World Athletics Championship. We will see big events in our country,” said Terzi.
In November, Istanbul confirmed its candidature for both the 2015 European Athletics Indoor Championships and 2016 European Athletics Championships.
Prague, Budapest, Belgrade and Istanbul must now submit formal bids to host the 2015 European Athletics Indoor Championships by February 28.plit, Amsterdam, Bydgoszcz and Istanbul are in contention for the right to host the 2016 European Athletics Championships and are also expected to submit their bids by the end of February.