It was quite an occasion 12 months ago for Turkey’s Esma Aydemir: a personal best, a gold medal and victory in front of her own fans with a superb performance at the European 10,000m Cup.
In Minsk on Saturday, the 25-year-old will look to defend that title and in the process send out another message to youngsters preparing for their own big summer at the European Athletics U20 Championships in Grosseto next month.
Ahead of the IAAF World Championships in London this coming August, Saturday’s race in the Belarusian capital is one of the biggest 10,000m of the season and Aydemir is already having quite a year.
Having cut her personal best by almost 11 seconds when she won in Mersin 12 months ago in 33:33.38, she reduced that time further to 32:57.57 in Baku last month.
One of the great features of Aydemir’s career performances have been her ability to reach a peak at the big events – having first made a name for herself at the 2011 European U20s in Tallinn.
How many teenagers now will be heading to Grosseto with senior success on their mind in the years to come?
That was Aydemir six years in the Estonian capital when she won the 5000m and finished second in the 3000m, clocking personal bests in both races.
In Mersin, Aydemir produced a brilliant last lap to win gold as she beat Italy’s Rosaria Console (33:44.11) and Great Britain’s Jenny Nesbitt (33:45.46) on a great day for Turkey as they won the team silver medals as well.
Console returns to look to go one better as she aims for gold, while Turkey have a strong squad which will be gunning for the team title as Aydemir is joined by Busra Nur Koku, Fadime Suna and Emine Hatun Tuna.
Also in the race, in addition to Aydemir, will be three former champions: Germany’s Sabrina Mokenhaupt and the Portuguese pair of Inês Monteiro and Sara Moreira.
Portugal, with a strong squad that also includes sub-32 performer Jessica Augusto, are the favourites to take the team gold but not only will Turkey be challenging for medals but also defending champions Great Britain.
Turkey’s Aras Kaya will be looking to add to his list of continental honours in Minsk having won at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships last December
He is the only man in the field to have run under 28 minutes and can boast of a best of 27:48.53, set two years ago.
Potentially, Kaya’s main rival could be Spain’s former European U20 steeplechase champion Antonio Abadia, the second fastest man in Minsk, who left the barriers behind five years ago.
Abadia’s subsequent honours have included third place in last summer’s European Athletics Championships 10,000m.