Turkey lags behind sporting giants in Winter Olympic squads
Turkey’s Alper Uçar and Alisa Agafonova are among the country’s six athletes to participate to next month’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.Only six athletes will represent Turkey at next month’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, meaning the country will be left far behind the sport’s greats in the top event.
Sabahattin Oğlago and Kelime Çetinkaya will compete in the cross country event, Tuğba Kocaağa and Emre Şimşek will race in the Alpine skiing while figure-skating couple Alisa Agafonova and Alper Uçar will join them in the Sochi Games, which start on Feb. 7.
Turkey participated in the 2010 Vancouver Games with five athletes and went to 2006 Torino with six athletes.
In the total 15 Olympics that Turkey has participated in, the country has not won a single medal.
The lack of a solid representation in Sochi marked a staunch difference between Turkey with Japan and Spain, the two countries that it has competed against for hosting the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
Istanbul lost to Tokyo in the bidding, while Madrid came third, in the bidding in September 2013.
Spain is going to Sochi with 21 athletes, and it has a strong medal contender in Javier Fernandez, who is a two-time defending European champion in figure skating. Fernandez will also be Spain’s flagbearer in the opening ceremony.
Japan made its ambitions clear as it is sending a record number of athletes to Sochi. Women outnumber men for the first time in Japan’s Winter Olympic team with the turnaround attributed to Japan’s participation in women’s ice hockey for the first time in 16 years with 21 players bound for Russia.
The entire delegation will be made up of 113 athletes, 48 men and 65 women, the biggest Japanese contingent sent abroad for a Winter Games, according to figures released by the national Olympic committee. The total is second only to the 166 athletes, 100 men and 66 women, whom Japan fielded when they hosted the 1998 edition in Nagano. Japan’s women’s ice hockey team played at Nagano as hosts and qualified for Sochi against the odds last year, inspired by the Japanese women’s football World Cup victory in 2011.
Japan’s chef de mission to Sochi, former Olympic women’s speed skater and cyclist Seiko Hashimoto, has set the goal of breaking their best medal haul -- 10 medals including five golds won in Nagano.
Only 17-year-old Sara Takanashi, who has won eight of the season’s 11 World Cup women’s ski-jumping events so far, is expected to be a shoo-in for a gold medal.
Perennial Olympic strongholds United States and Russia are also sending large squads to the Games.
The United States named its largest ever delegation for a Winter Games by announcing it is sending 230 athletes to Sochi.
Five-time Olympic medallist Shani Davis, slalom skier Mikaela Shiffrin and 36-year-old Bode Miller highlight the 230-member team that will travel to Sochi for the Games. The team, which includes 125 men and 105 women, is the largest of any country in the history of the Winter Games.
The Americans would like to equal or better their performance of 2010, when they put in their most successful Winter Games with 37 medals, including nine golds.
Last week, the Russian Olympic Committee approved a 223-athlete squad for the Games.
Great Britain, which enjoyed huge success in the last Summer Olympic Games hosted in London in 2012, is going to Sochi with 56 athletes.
Additional reports from AFP were used in this story