Athletics stride ahead with up-and-coming players

Published 26.02.2019 00:07
Mizgin Ay gestures during a competition in Nairobi.
Mizgin Ay gestures during a competition in Nairobi.

Turkish athletics is looking forward to a brighter future with new names with multiple records and less emphasis on naturalized foreign players

Recovering from doping scandals and staving off criticism on relying too much on naturalized foreign athletes, Turkish athletics is nowadays on a stable path to success in European and international competitions. 2018 has been a year for up-and-coming young talents breaking countless records in their branches and another year when Turkish athletics did not look to naturalize foreign talents for success.

Aykut Ay, Mikdat Sevler, Salih Teksöz, Alperen Acet, Can Özüpek, Necati Er, Mizgin Ay and Şevval Ayaz are few among the many to make the country proud.

Most recently, Ersu Şaşma added to his previous record in the pole vault. The 20-year-old athlete's Olympic trial on Sunday in Istanbul saw him breaking the 5.15-meter record in the U23 category previously held by Ümit Sungur, increasing it to 5.20 meters, 5.30 meters and finally to 5.40 meters throughout the one-day trial. His record was outstanding for Turkish athletics and came almost two decades after Ruhan İşim broke the same record. Though Şaşma failed to take it to 5.65 meters in his next attempt, he still came a long way from his best result of 5.10 meters for indoors and 5.20 meters for outdoors.

Şevval Ayaz is another name to watch. The 19-year-old runner, who repeated his Turkish record in the 60-meter hurdle in the Balkan Senior Indoors Championship in Istanbul last week at 8.21 seconds, is qualified for the European Indoors Championship set to be held in Glasgow next month. Ayaz had managed to reach the finals in the World U20 Championship last summer and finished fifth there. Her latest record surpasses her idol Nevin Yanıt, the two-time European champion in the 100-meter hurdle and European indoor champion in the 60-meter hurdle. Yanıt, whose career was tainted with doping allegations, had achieved 8.28 seconds record in Turkish athletics in the 60-meter hurdle.

In the discus throw, 17-year-old Özlem Becerek has made waves in Turkish athletics. The young athlete competing for Fenerbahçe, won the U18 category in a local competition earlier this month and broke the national record in the U18 and U20 categories with 57.45 meters. Becerek already boasts bronze medals in European and international athletics competitions.

Javelin thrower Eda Tuğsuz, a record holder in Turkey in her own category, rose to second place in European standings with 62.36 meters in a local competition in Antalya last week. In the same competition, Osman Kul won the U20 men's category in the discus throw and became the third best athlete in the category for Turkey with 55.55 meters. Kul is currently fourth in European standings. Pınar Akyol, another young star, broke the Turkish record formerly held by Emel Dereli in the discus throw, with 17.62 meters in the U18 category.

Turkish athletes will showcase how they fare in international competitions now as they will travel to Glasgow for the 35th edition of the European Indoors Championship on March 1-3. The national athletics team is composed of 15 athletes and all are homegrown talents, barring Emre Zafer Barnes, a Jamaica-born sprinter who became a naturalized citizen in 2015.

Along with Barnes, Aykut Ay, Kayhan Özer, Yavuz Can, Mikdat Sevler, Salih Teksöz, Ramazan Özdemir, Alperen Acet, Can Özüpek, Necati Er, Osman Can Özdeveci will represent the men's team. In the women's category, Mizgin Ay, Şevval Ayaz, Özlem Kaya and Emel Dereli will compete in Glasgow.

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