Turkey pinning hopes on weighlifters in Olympics

July 27th, 2008 - 6:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Ankara, July 27 (Xinhua) Turkey is pinning hopes on its weightlifters to win medals at the Beijing Games. The Turkish athletes won 10 medals - four golds, three silvers and three bronzes - at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Now, the country wants more, and it is relying on its traditional weightlifters.

Naim Suleymanoglu set the Turkish weightlifting bandwagon rolling 20 years ago. Suleymanoglu’s triple Olympic victory was followed by yet another three-medal haul by Halil Mutlu and, even though these two legends will not compete in Beijing, Turkey has athletes to count on, especially young Taner Sagir.

Sagir began to write the story of success in Athens, becoming an Olympic winner at the age of 19. Now he eyes his second gold medal, dismissing claims that an injury would keep him out of the Olympics.

“I am in good condition, but not there yet,” he said, adding that he would reach top form before the Olympics. After shining in Athens, Sagir was voted one of the 10 most successful athletes of the Games, and now expectations are much higher.

“My success isn’t a one-off thing,” he said. “I am not an untalented athlete and I always aim for the highest. I am among the best weightlifters in the world.”

Sagir is one of six weightlifters who will represent Turkey in Beijing. Six weightlifters may not appear to be a large number, but of the country’s 65 athletes, the weightlifters’ chances to finish with medals are seemingly the best.

Mehmet Atalay, head of the Youth and Sports Directorate, added that weightlifting and wrestling would be Turkey’s main trump cards.

“Our aim is to win five gold, five silver and five bronze medals, and to finish the Games among the top 20 countries,” he said. “Of course, wrestling and weightlifting will be our arsenal of medals there.”

One of the names that are touted the most for winning a gold medal is Nurcan Taylan, who will compete against her fellow Turk, Sibel Ozkan, in the women’s 48-kilogram category. The country’s first-ever woman Olympic medallist, Taylan looks to defend her title.

“I had a good training season,” she said of her camp in her hometown, Sivas province, hinting that she may even break a world record in Beijing. “I am coming close to breaking records in trainings,” she said. ” I want to make history again, and that is why I trained seven hours a day. I believe God will give me what I deserve, because I tried so hard.”

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