European 100m hurdles champion Nevin Yanıt hopes to emulate her Barcelona success at the 2012 European Championships, which start in Helsinki today.
One of 41 Turkish athletes at the championships, Yanıt will be Turkey’s only champion in Helsinki, since runners Elvan Abeylegesse and Alemitu Bekele chose to skip the event ahead of the Olympic Games in London.
Yanıt, who was an unheralded athlete two years ago, goes to Helsinki with the “champion” tag, but she is not fazed by pressure.
“I am going to the championships as the defending champion,” Yanıt said to Anatolia News Agency. “So that gives me extra responsibility. There are people believing in me now. But I believe in myself and I know I can make it if I believe in myself. I will return with gold medal again.”
Yanıt added, however, that London remains her main focus.
“European championships are a secondary target for me. Right now I am focused on the Olympics,” she said. “But I still believe I will return from Helsinki with a gold medal.”
Meanwhile, another name to watch in Helsinki will be French
sprinter Christophe Lemaitre, who won’t even try to defend his three titles. That would require too much exertion ahead of the Olympics.
In short, that is what the Europeans have turned into this year - preparation for the London Games.
While athletes in the United States, Jamaica and elsewhere compete in clutch races at national trials a month out from the games, their European counterparts will be testing their form against each other.
At the 2010 Europeans in Barcelona, Lemaitre surprised everyone by winning the 100, 200 and 4x100 meters relay to kick-start his international career.
He is now eyeing one individual Olympic medal, most likely in the 200, and has downscaled his ambitions in Helsinki.
Additional AP report was used in this story