To be fair… you wouldn’t necessarily think of Türkiye as a curling nation… Canada, Sweden, Scotland, Switzerland – sure, but Türkiye?
Well, perhaps it’s time to think again, if the evidence of what’s happening at the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships is anything to go by.
By the end of the round-robin, women’s skip Dilsat Yildiz will have played her 300th representative game, and she was leading a team that, having gained promotion from the B-Division in 2019, have qualified for their second successive world championship appearance, planning to improve on their 11th place in 2021.
Dilsat has now made ten appearances at European championships and, speaking in the lobby of her hotel during a 1.00 am fire alarm (!), she took time to reflect.
“In general, we’re happy about where we are right now,” she says.
“Our first aim was to get both men and women into the A-Division, and we’ve accomplished that. Now we want to stay in A and get to the worlds again. Next, we want to go to the Olympic Games in 2026.”
She added, “We used to dream about making it to the A-Division, but now we are there. Now we are a solid team, and our opponents have to think twice about us.”
Meanwhile, Türkiye’s men’s team, skipped by Ugurcan Karagoz, have also taken a couple of scalps in their first-ever A-Division campaign, and, following their 11-4 win over Germany in their sixth round-robin game, followed up by their 6-1 victory over Denmark, they too will now make their first-ever world championship appearance.
For Ugurcan, this is a sixth European appearance (all others in the B-Division) and he says, “This is our dream. This is our first experience of a top international tournament and it’s going well.”
And, echoing women’s skip Dilsat, he adds, “This is the first step in our dream to have the men’s and women’s teams in the Olympics together.”
While their teams are performing well at European level, there is further good news for curling back home in Türkiye, as team official Fatih Agduman explains.
“In Türkiye, there are about 1,000 athletes and 100 clubs. We can play in three or four locations, but the most important location is Erzurum. It is the only dedicated curling ice with five sheets.”
Fatih makes another point that has been important in developing their top-end teams, as well as the others that are coming behind them.
“Our teams have a chance to play curling all year long,” he says.
“The programme is supported by the Federation, and the Federation is supported by the national government’s Youth and Sports Ministry and the Turkish National Olympic Committee. That means we can give our athletes a salary every month.”
Now an experienced skip, as well as a qualified teacher, Dilsat, who comes from the Erzurum area, also explained how she got involved in curling in the first place.
“I love curling, that’s why I started. I lived near the curling arena and when I saw the sport, I decided this is my sport. It looks very different, and it is attractive.”
She added, “It’s an Olympic sport so there is extra thought about curling. If you become an athlete, you can be supported to go to university, so it is all good for us.”
Looks like what’s good for Türkiye’s curlers is becoming increasingly good for world curling too.
Engage with the World Curling Federation during the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2022 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Weibo and by searching the hashtags #ECC2022 #curling