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Turkish skater's parents being left out of the loop Add to ...

As the first figure skater from Turkey to compete at the Olympics, Tugba Karademir was one of the feel-good stories of the 2006 Winter Games. A last-minute qualifier, the lithe, Canadian-coached skater proudly carried her native country's flag into the opening ceremonies.

But the magic moment did not come without heartache.

It all happened so quickly that Ms. Karademir's parents, who sacrificed good jobs in Turkey to move to Canada to help their daughter's career, were unable to make it to Turin. Their tears of joy were confined to the family home in Barrie, Ont., where they watched on television.

Now, despite the staging of the Olympics in the Karademirs' new homeland, the family's dreams are being dashed once again.

Although Ms. Karademir qualified early on for the 2010 Games in Vancouver, her parents have been unable to secure the two sets of cherished tickets they need to watch her compete in the women's long and short figure-skating programs.

Sabite and Tayfun Karademir financed their daughter's training, until times got better in Canada, by washing dishes, delivering fast food and cleaning toilets. In Turkey, Mrs. Karademir had been an aerospace engineer. Her husband owned several restaurants.

For them, after all their hardship and coming from a country where figure skating is not much more popular than curling, the thought of missing the Olympics is crushing.

"You put all your dreams together as a family, to give your daughter a chance at the Olympics, and when it happens, you want to be there together, as a family," Mrs. Karademir said yesterday. "None of us imagined we couldn't be there this time, in Canada. It's such a shame."

Three times Mrs. Karademir went online to try for tickets in separate VANOC lotteries. Each time, she came away empty-handed, outdone by the frenzied demand from tens of thousands of other Canadians also looking for tickets.

The Turkish Olympic Committee told the family it has no figure skating tickets, while Panasonic Canada, when informed by The Globe and Mail of the Karademirs' plight, managed to come up with one ticket to the women's long program. Worldwide, Panasonic is one of the Olympics' top sponsors. A blog from Ms. Karademir is carried on the company's Olympic website.

Mrs. Karademir said she appreciated the single ticket offer, but hadn't decided whether to accept it. "I don't want to seem ungrateful. I can pay for the tickets, but I need four tickets, for me and my husband."

She is not looking for handouts. Mrs. Karademir said she is willing to pay face value for the tickets, which range as high as $450 each. What she wants is the chance to buy, noting that VANOC has warned Canadians not to trust tickets sold by scalpers. Some unauthorized sellers are offering figure-skating tickets for as much as $3,000. "VANOC says they can't guarantee these kind of tickets," said Mrs. Karademir. "I don't want to blame anyone. I don't want people to think I'm this crazy, angry woman. But what am I supposed to do?"

The difficulty of the Karademirs, now Canadian citizens, contrasts with the cornucopia available to families of Olympic athletes representing Canada. Petro-Canada is providing tickets, meals and four nights' accommodation for up to 500 family members at the 2010 Games, which begin on Feb. 12.

Ms. Karademir, who works with legendary Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning as her choreographer, said she never thought her parents would be unable to attend the Vancouver Games, after the bittersweet experience of Turin.

"We had all been looking forward to it. They worked so hard, they gave up so much, so I could qualify," she said. "It seems so unfair that they can't go, when so many other people who haven't worked nearly as hard are going.

"It would just mean so much to me, when I take my bow, to be able to look into the stands and see them sitting there."

Follow on Twitter: @rodmickleburgh

 

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