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28 January 2014 | in Winter FISU World University Games, Figure Skating

The Erzurum Universiade: More than a Venue Legacy


 The jumping towers in Erzurum: a WU legacy and landmark

LAUSANNE - When Turkey bid to host a Winter Universiade for the first time in 2005, there was some skepticism for a country not exactly known for its achievements in winter sports. But the dedicated Turks succeeded in their attempt and were attributed the 25th Winter Universiade for 2011 in 2007. They had to start from scratch building many winter sport venues in Erzurum: several ice rinks, dedicated ski slopes, a biathlon venue and last but not least a ski jumping hill. The Organizing Committee succeeded in its endeavors and delivered a successful Winter Universiade. Without any doubt, the legacy for Erzurum and Turkey were the magnificent ice and snow sport venues that since then have been used for quite a number of Junior World Championships and World Cups of the International Ice and Snow Sport Federations. However, they were also built as part of a greater plan, i.e. to prepare Turkish athletes to perform on the international sport scene in winter sports, with the Winter Olympics as the pinnacle for Turkish winter sport athletes. Indeed, although Turkey has sent representatives to the Winter Olympics almost every year since 1936, the country is generally more likely to leave its mark in Summer Olympic sports such as wrestling and weightlifting.

Alper Uçar and Alisa Agafonova performing at the 2011 WU in Erzurum

However, with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi around the corner, Turkey is currently preparing six national athletes who will represent the country, including its first ice dancers. Two athletes will represent Turkey in alpine skiing and another two will participate in cross-country skiing. The country will also send a pair to compete in the ice dancing event. The latter two are no strangers to the FISU Family. Alper Uçar and Ukrainian-born Alisa Agafonova won the silver medal in ice dancing at the 2011 Winter Universiade in Erzurum. The pair is Turkey's third Olympic entry in figure skating. Tuğba Karademir entered women's singles in 2010 and 2006, placing 24th and 21st, respectively. Prior to that, the country only sent alpine and cross-country skiers to the Winter Olympics.

Alper Uçar and Alisa Agafonova with the WU silver medal

Turkey is moving steadily forward, even if it is not on par with the world's finest just yet. It is working on boosting its reputation and performance in a broad range of athletics, winter sports included. However, it takes time to learn to play with the best. Bringing the Winter Universiade to Erzurum to build a genuine winter sports hub to prepare Turkish athletes for winter sport greatness was the right move to give young athletes a head start. To be continued …

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C. Pierre, Press Officer