The next generation of Turkey national team stars are slowly but steadily beginning to make an impact and the centrepiece of the current transition is Olcay Cakir.
Also hoping to reach yet another EuroLeague Women Final Four with Fenerbahce, we caught up with the 22-year-old guard for a Q&A.
|Olcay Cakir is playing her fifth EuroLeague Women season with Fenerbahce|
FIBA: You must have been happy when Coach Dikeoulakos came back to the club because of the trust he showed in you previously at the Final Eight back in 2012?
OC: It was with Coach Dikeoulakos that I got playing time on the senior team for the first time. At a very important time [and competition] he gave me responsibility. It was a really important game for me that I'll never forget for the rest of my life.
FIBA: The EuroLeague Women Final Four was difficult last season and did not go well in Prague. Those players involved last year will have a strong motivation to return again and maybe show the true face of Fenerbahce?
OC: Like every year, we went to Prague aiming for the silverware. Unfortunately things didn't go the way we wanted. We want to take the lessons learned from our mistakes there, make a run, and bring a first EuroLeague Women title to our club.
|Cakir and Turkey hope to qualify for the Olympics this summer|
FIBA: Tell us about EuroBasket Women 2015 last year as you had a breakthrough tournament and some really nice moments. What are your memories and has it given you confidence to now become a leader with the national team?
OC: It definitely gave me confidence. In a year in which there's a generational shift going on, it was really important for me to get such a responsibility against Europe's best players. As for the tournament, I think I took full advantage of the responsibility and playing time given to me. Despite the generational difference, I think we had a great team spirit, and I think we're going to achieve great things in the future.
FIBA: It must be great for you to play alongside Birsel [Vardarli Demirmen] who is a legend of the national team and Fenerbahce. When she retires it could be on your shoulders to carry Fenerbahce and Turkey which must be a big responsibility and also exciting? How do you guys get along and what is she like to play with?
|Playing alongside Birsel Vardarli Demirmen has raised her game, says Cakir|
OC: I believe that playing with Birsel Vardarli Demirmen, one of Europe's top point guards, has really developed my game. I'm proud to be on the same team as her. I will carry the torch she's going to pass to me as best I can. With the ease that playing together for years has given us we understand each other easily and we direct the team comfortably.
FIBA: Finally, Turkey had a wake-up call in Israel during the latest FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017 Qualifiers window, but maybe this will be a positive going to Nantes as you try to qualify for Rio?
OC: In 2012 I was supporting my country by watching excitedly on television, and in 2016 I will support it by wearing the jersey on the court. I'm really excited for this. I think losing that game was a warning for us. We're going to take the necessary lessons from that warning and prepare for the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in the best way possible. The Olympics are the highest level for every sport, and it's every athlete's dream to participate. It's a big responsibility and very exciting to be a part of a team that will go to the Olympics, and to make a contribution to that team. I'm really happy about this. First, we're going to get through the qualifiers. Then we're going to do everything possible to win a medal.