Eight athletes to represent Turkey at Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
An eight-member team of Turkish athletes has arrived in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Olympics will start tomorrow.
The Turkish team, which includes three women and five men, comprises Alpine skiing athletes Serdar Deniz and Özlem Çarıkçıoğlu, cross-country skiers Hamza Dursun, Ömer Ayçiçek and Ayşenur Duman, the ski jumper Fatih Arda İpçioğlu and ice dancing duo Alper Uçar and Alisa Agafonova. The athletes will be accompanied by five coaches, three administrators and a physiotherapist.
İpçioğlu’s participation marks the first time Turkey has been represented in the ski jumping event of the Winter Olympics. The 20-year-old athlete secured the Olympic spot after he made a 127.5-meter jump at the FIS Continental Cup in the eastern province of Erzurum last month.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, İpçioğlu said he was happy and proud to have achieved a success that could set an example for future athletes.
“I’m excited, but I’m trying to play it down and act as though it were not a huge thing. Or else, I could lose control. I don’t feel much pressure, because I’ve met the expectations so far. I want to do more for myself,” he said.
Deniz also said it would not be realistic to expect any medals from the Turkish team. “We have not reached the necessary level in winter sports. We have just started developing as a country,” he said.
İpçioğlu agreed, saying that Turkey had the potential to raise successful winter athletes. “There are efforts to make this a reality. Athletes are being picked in schools. In winter sports, you have to be innovative to be successful. If we continue as we are now, we could have medal winners in the Winter Olympics in five to ten years, and I hope that I will be among them,” he said.
Meanwhile, cross-country athlete Ayçiçek said he started the sport using curtain rails instead of proper gear.
“I started with curtain rails, but the ski center built in my village [in the eastern province of Van] changed my life,” the 24-year-old said.
“I used to watch the people coming to the ski center with envy when I was a kid, now I’m at the Olympics,” he added.
Only the top 300 athletes in the world are allowed to participate in the Olympics, Ayçiçek said, adding that he was the 268th. “I will do my best in Peyongchang. I believe we will achieve better positions than previous Olympic Games, and we aim to enter the top 30 in the 2022 Beijing Games and the 2026 Olympics,” he said.
Dursun, also a cross-country skier, said the conditions in Turkey’s east are very suitable for raising successful athletes.
“The mountains and the rugged terrain provide you with the perfect setting,” said Dusun, who is based in the eastern province of Ağrı.
Dursun also said winning medals for Turkey in Pyeongchang was not realistic.
“My biggest dream is to help raise a new generation of cross-country athletes who will aim for medals. Turkey has never won a medal at the Winter Olympics, but I’m sure that this will change one day,” he said.