Turkey’s ‘Sultans’ go to London with high hopes
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish national team will meet Brazil, United States and China, three medallists of the 2008 Beijing Games, in the Group B. AA photo
The Turkish national women’s volleyball team might have been placed in a tough group at the London Olympics, but the team – dubbed the “Sultans” – is entertaining high hopes of success when the games kick off this week.
Turkey will be represented in volleyball for the first time in its history while also ending a 52-year drought of missing out on team sports at the Olympic Games.
However, the national team will not have an easy path out of its group after it was pitted in a tough Group B which also includes the United States, China, South Korea, Serbia and Brazil.
Brazil, United States and China won gold, silver and bronze medals at the last Olympics in Beijing, while Serbia comes to the event as European champion.
Tougher one of two Olympic groups
The other group features Great Britain, Japan, Italy, Russia, the Dominican Republic and Algeria.
“Yes, we know we are in a really tough group, but we will play with a higher motivation and will turn this situation into an advantage,” middle blocker Eda Erdem recently told Anatolia news agency.
Erdem said Turkey had already played several of its rivals in the 2012 FIVB World Grand Prix last month.
Turkey beat Serbia and South Korea in the competition in China, but lost to the U.S. and Brazil. The U.S. went on to win the tournament, while Turkey finished third.
“We all believe we will get a medal,” Erdem said. “We have played our opponents in the Grand Prix, so we know about their levels. We know where we are as well.”
US, Brazil favorites
Turkish Volleyball Federation (TVF) Chairman Erol Ünal Karabıyık also talked about his belief in the team, even though he would have liked the national team to be in the other group.
“To be honest, I’d like us to be in the other group. It would be easier if we were in the group of Great Britain, Algeria and the Dominican Republic. Russia, Italy and Japan were also teams that we have met recently,” Karabıyık said.
“But we cannot whine about it. We have the strength to beat any team in the group,” Karabıyık said, adding that Brazil and the U.S. were “one step ahead” of the others to top the group.
As first-timers, Turkish national team players might have a problem, but Erdem played down that factor.
“I don’t know if playing at the Olympics for the first time will be a disadvantage,” Erdem said. “But we have played those teams before; it is just a new stage for us. But what matters is the way we play.”
Last year, Turkey was third in the European Championship, a year after finishing sixth in the FIVB World Championship in 2010.
“We have a good generation now and finish in good spots every year,” she said. “I think that makes us a team to watch out for – in our rivals’ eyes. We are going to London with hopes and high expectations.”
Neslihan Darnel to carry Turkey’s flag
ISTANBUL / Hürriyet Daily News
Volleyball star Neslihan Darnel will carry the Turkish flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Darnel, whose name is almost synonymous with volleyball in Turkey, is arguably the most famous female athlete of the country.
“All of our athletes are important to us, but Neslihan is the face of Turkish sports,” Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç told Sabah daily last week. “In a year where Turkey will participate in the Olympics with female athletes outnumbering the males, Neslihan is an apt choice.”
The 29-year-old was the best scorer of the 2006 and 2010 World Championships.
“Carrying the flag will suit her perfectly,” Turkish Volleyball Federation chief Erol Ünal Karabıyık said.