From coffee table to the Olympic skating rink

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By Sonia Oxley

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Tugba Karademir scrambled on top of the coffee table aged three to announce to her mother she wanted to be just like twice Olympic champion Katarina Witt.

No matter that there was only one ice rink in Turkey in the 1980s and her homeland had never had an Olympic figure skater.

After a kindergarten trip to the Ankara rink sealed her love for skating, she left for Canada with her parents a few years later to pursue her dream and in 2006 Turkey had its first Olympian in the sport.

Four years later, she is at her second Games on surrogate home ice in Vancouver.

"It's very tough. I'm very proud of being Turkish, I love Turkey and I wish I didn't have to move but hopefully I'll bring some attention to Turkish figure skating in Turkey," the 24-year-old told Reuters in an interview.

"I always watched figure skating on the TV because it's so popular in Turkey to watch but they don't ever think that we have rinks to go to and participate so hopefully I'm bringing it to the forefront a little bit more.

"I love skating in Canada because the crowds are very knowledgeable about skating and they are very encouraging. When I go skating in Canada I usually skate very well so I'm looking forward to the Olympics."

"My mum said 'you were watching her at the Olympics and you said I'm going to do that one day'. She said I got on the coffee table and told her that's what I was going to do," she said.


Karademir, Turkey's flag-bearer at the Turin Games opening ceremony, was 21st in her event in 2006 and is hoping for an improvement this time after enlisting Canadian four-times former world champion Kurt Browning as one of her choreographers.

"He just knows everything about this sport, it's just great to hear his perspective on it," she said of Browning, who choreographed her short programme.

"He'll work with you for hours. I had new skates the first day I started working with him which was a bad idea, and I was bleeding by the end of seven hours because you don't normally skate in new skates for that long."

Karademir, who coaches in Canada to help fund her skating, hopes to return eventually to Turkey and help develop the sport.

"We have a lot better infrastructure for those coming up later and hopefully I can help them with my experiences when I start coaching in Turkey," she said, adding there were now three Olympic-size rinks in the country.

"I would love to go back and help out and maybe become part of the federation, become part of the ISU (International Skating Union) so that I can help guide Turkey to better skating.

"There is a lot of talent out there at a young age but unfortunately it's wasted as they don't know how to develop it." (Editing by Jon Bramley)