I first met Tugba outside of the training rink here in Vancouver. She came out of the rink with a confident step and a gleam in her eye. I said, "I'll try not be the crazed skating fan right now...I'm beyond excited to meet you!" Her response, "That's awesome." I knew right away I liked Tugba.
We chit-chatted skating and as I got to know her I realized she is very real. There is nothing put on or rehearsed about Tugba...she's real.
Spending some time with her will certainly be one of the fondest memories I take from these Olympics. I've been following her career since 2003 when I first saw her compete at the World Figure Skating Championships in Washington, D.C. When I asked her about her preparation for this event she was very confident and self assured; "I know I'm well trained. I see myself as one of the top girls this year and I know what I've done in training so I feel very ready for this event. I qualified quite early for Vancouver so I've been able to really prepare. For Torino it was rush rush rush to make the Olympics and here I've been able to really focus and prepare." There is that confident Tugba I was speaking of.
When I asked her what one thing she would have me blog about her she was clear in her response; "That I'm proud to represent Turkey. It means a lot to me. Turkey has made some real progress as far as creating a skating program and I feel like I was a part of that, and it makes me really proud."
Like Clyde and Robel, she said all the comments on her athlete blog were motivating and help justify the sacrifices she has made. "When you train as an elite figure skater you don't have the life that others have. When all my friends are going out or going to the prom I was training. But it's what I want to do. I love being out there on the ice and I know all the sacrifices that my family and I have made is worth it."
Tonight she'll perform her Free Skate and 'proudly' represent her home nation of Turkey. No matter the result, she can be 'proud' that she has been the face of Turkish Figure Skating through two Olympics now and is a role model for many in Turkey and around the world.
Tugba is proof that you can achieve what you put your head to. We are all fortunate that she has "Shared her Passion" with all of us.