Winter Universiade - Sochi delegation the legacy of Turkish Universiade

The legacy of the 2011 Winter Universiade in Erzurum has reaped rewards with Turkey set to be represented in Sochi by six athletes.

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Winter Universiade - Sochi delegation the legacy of Turkish Universiade
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Turkey's Alper Uçar and Alisa Agafonova (FISU)

When Turkey bid to host a Winter Universiade for the first time in 2005, there was some scepticism about a country not exactly known for its achievements in winter sports. But the bid was successful and in 2007 the Turks were awarded the 25th Winter Universiade for 2011.

The future hosts had to start building several winter sport venues in Erzurum from scratch: ice rinks, dedicated ski slopes, a biathlon venue and, perhaps the most daunting, a ski jumping hill. Yet despite the enormity of their task, the organising committee succeeded in its endeavours and went on to deliver a hugely successful Winter Universiade.

The Games' legacy has been equally as impressive as the feats of construction and the organisation of the Games themselves.

The ice and snow sport venues have since been used for a number of Junior World Championships and World Cups of the International Ice and Snow Sport Federations.

But they were also built as part of a greater plan - to give Turkish athletes the opportunity to perform on the international winter sports scene, with the Winter Olympics identified as the ultimate goal.

As a competing nation, Turkey is more likely to leave its mark on the summer Games - in sports such as wrestling and weightlifting - but nevertheless they have sent representatives to the Winter Olympics almost every year since 1936.

But with the 2014 Olympics just around the corner, Turkey is currently preparing a dozen athletes for Sochi.

Included in the delegation sent to Russia are the country's first ice dancers, while two alpine and two cross-country skiers make up the sextet.

The ice dancing pair are no strangers to FISU competition: Alper Uçar and Ukraine-born Alisa Agafonova won the silver medal at the 2011 Winter Universiade in Erzurum.

They are Turkey's third Olympic entry in figure skating after Tuğba Karademir entered women's singles in 2010 and 2006, placing 24th and 21st, respectively. Prior to that, the country had only sent alpine and cross-country skiers to the Winter Olympics.

The latest squad of athletes in Sochi serves to highlight how far Turkey has come in boosting its reputation and performance in winter sports over recent years. They may be small steps as yet, but the nation's winter sports hub in Erzurum, the legacy of 2011, indicates that those steps could yet turn into leaps.

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