Judoka Acelya Toprak believes she is in with a chance of a medal at the European Youth Olympic Festival – something she is keen to prove following her recent disappointment.
Toprak arrived at the Cadet European Judo Championships at the beginning of the month in confident mood having already won a gold and silver medal on the Cup circuit.
But the 17-year-old was unable to trouble the -63kg podium in Sofia as she suffered a second-round loss to eventual silver medallist Hanna Kukharuk of Ukraine.
In the team event, however, Toprak returned to the mat and beat the individual bronze medallist Jovana Obradovic of Serbia, showing that she has what it takes to make an impact at the highest level.
And it is this attitude that the Ravensbourne School pupil insists she will take to Tbilisi with her as she bids to get back to winning ways.
“This year I was aiming for both the European Championships and the European Youth Olympic Festival so to be selected for both was amazing,” she said.
“At the Europeans I managed to rank ninth which wasn’t bad but it’s not what I wanted. I went there looking for a medal because I had won a gold and a silver from the European Cups but it just wasn’t to be.
“I am still pleased to finish ninth but it was frustrating because later in the team event I beat the girl who had won bronze so I showed I could do it.
“If I had a different draw or if it was a different day I might have done better but the coaches said I fought really well and gave it my all so I was pleased.
“And that has given me a lot of confidence heading to Tbilisi because I know that I am not a million miles away from beating these girls so I will be going there to win a medal, although anything in the top five would be great.”
The European Youth Olympic Festival will be Toprak’s first step towards a senior Games, and her first experience of a multi-sport event.
And for someone who admittedly suffers from nerves, the Metro Judo Club starlet is fully aware of the need to keep cool in Tbilisi.
“The European Youth Olympic Festival will be the biggest competition I have been in,” she added. “That means I am bound to be nervous.
“Even at the smaller events I get really nervous and it could be two or three days before and I will be nervous.
“But I think being nervous is a good thing as it shows me that I really want it, so I just need to channel it as best I can and use it to my advantage.”
Toprak will be joined by a large contingent of fellow young judokas on the trip to Georgia with Kiera Bateman, Lucy Day, Aimee Grant, Shelley Ludford and Olivia Piechota completing the women’s team.
For the men there will also be six judokas in action with Wesley Greenidge, William Jones, Harry Lovell-Hewitt, Ottavio Razzino and Henry Wakes all in action and Scott Thomson looking to sign off his cadet career in style.
© Sportsbeat 2015