Avramova looking to build on Baku success in Budapest

19 May 2017
Turkey's Ekaterina Avramova (gold), Turkey's Ilayda Kargin (silver) and Algeria's Amel Melhi (bronze) pose after the women's 50m Backstroke at the Baku 2017.
Turkey's Ekaterina Avramova (gold), Turkey's Ilayda Kargin (silver) and Algeria's Amel Melhi (bronze) pose after the women's 50m Backstroke at the Baku 2017.

Turkish swimming star Ekaterina Avramova is determined to build on her successful Islamic Solidarity Games as she gears up for this summer's world championships in Budapest.

The Bulgarian-born Avramova has been representing Turkey since 2014, and helped them storm to the top of the swimming medal table in Baku with five golds.

The 25-year-old completed a golden hat-trick in the women's backstroke events - conquering the 50m, 100m and 200m titles - before helping her teammates secure gold in the women's 4x100m freestyle and medley relays.

"For me, winning the 200m backstroke was very important," Avramova said.

"I was confident for the 100m, but I hadn't swum 200m in a competitive race since Rio. So when I won, it was the best feeling."

Avramova is one of only a handful of Turkish swimmers to have had a taste of the Olympics, having represented her native Bulgaria at London 2012 and Turkey at Rio 2016.

Yet she believes that Turkey's success at the 2017 Solidarity Games, where they won a staggering 26 golds out of a possible 40, is an important step on the road to Tokyo.

"Turkish swimming is definitely improving," Avramova added. "We are putting a lot of effort into getting as many swimmers as possible into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"For 2016, we had between seven and nine spots for the Olympics, but only four of us managed to qualify. So now they're really pushing to 2020."

Avramova began swimming at the age of six and enjoyed a very successful junior career in Bulgaria before moving to the UK in her late teens.

"In 2009, my mother decided that we were moving to London to improve my swimming, to give me a better-quality environment," she explained.
Avramova joined the Ealing Swimming Club - for whom she still competes in counties and regionals - and continued to improve, reaching the semi-finals of the 50m and 100m backstroke events at the 2011 worlds in Shanghai.

It was after London 2012 - where she was eliminated in the heats - that Avramova's journey took an unexpected twist.

"In 2013 I had an injury, and Bulgaria said to me, 'We can't do anything about it, we can't support you, we can't help you get better'.
"That's when Turkey came and helped me, and gave me the opportunity to continue my swimming."

Avramova switched her allegiance and represented Turkey for the first time at the 2014 short course world championships in Doha.

She is now eyeing up a historic first medal for her country at the worlds in the Hungarian capital, which run from July 14-30.

"I've qualified for all three backstrokes," Avramova said. "I did my times in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke at the European championships in London last May. Hopefully I can make the finals.

"The qualifying times for Budapest were very hard. Some of them were even harder than the Olympics."

While Avramova admitted that Baku 2017 was essentially part of her training for the worlds, she was still satisfied with what she achieved at her first Solidarity Games.

"I came to Azerbaijan with the thought of winning and being happy with my times, and I think I'm going home with all the boxes ticked," she enthused.

"There's a good atmosphere here. When I compete, it's not just against other nations, but also against my own teammates. That's just part of the game."

After the worlds, Avramova will take part in Turkey's national championships - she currently holds all of the country's backstroke records - before embarking on the long road to another Olympics.

"I've been swimming so far for 19 years, and by the time I finish it will hopefully be 23, 24 years. Then I realise, oh my god, I have to start a real job now," she smiled.

"It's important to enjoy the journey, because one day you turn around and you realise that it's all over."

It's not over just yet, though, and Avramova could well take a few people by surprise in Budapest and beyond.

© AFP Services

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