June 8 (Reuters) - Turkish javelin thrower Fatih Avan rests in the shadow of a tree during a brief respite from his Olympic training session. While the Games have a special place in his heart, he is mindful of what he puts in his stomach.
“I may have become an elite athlete with my good performances but I can only be a great athlete if I can win an Olympic medal,” he says.
Turkey is taking a team of 85 athletes to the 2012 London Games, a record number for the nation, and dozens of young sportsmen and women around the country are now busily training for the Olympics, much like Avan.
The 23-year-old complements his rigorous training schedule with a nutritional programme which gives him a daily intake of 3,500 calories - mostly derived from protein.
“A good diet is essential for power. A correct and consistent diet proves its value in my training,” he says.
Taekwondo fighter Bahri Tanrikulu is a three-times world champion, and an Olympic silver medallist. The 32-year-old has his heart set on a gold medal at the London Olympics.
He supplements his 3,000-calorie daily diet with legal ergogenic - or performance enhancing - aids and multivitamins.
A firm believer in the merits of permissible ergogenics, Tanrikulu says: ”If I did not take these supplements I would have to eat several kilos of meat, and dozens of pieces of fruit to meet my daily protein and vitamin requirement.
“If I had to obtain the calories my body needs through natural foods, I would have to spend all my time eating instead of training.”
Nur Tatar is also preparing to compete for Turkey in the London Games. This is her first Olympic event in taekwondo fighting and she is on a strict diet to shed several pounds to reach the exact weight category in which she will fight.
She has reduced her daily calorie intake to 1,500 calories.
World champion weightlifter Mete Binay fuels up on 3,500 a day. He drinks at least two glasses of milk a day, and his diet is largely composed of red meat.
Binay consumes plenty of sweet desserts every day and takes care never to miss a full breakfast. The weightlifter is also keen on organic food.
Shortly before competition, he starts supplementing his diet with ergogenic aids and vitamin pills.
Wrestler Elif Jale Yesilirmak adheres to a 3,000 calories-a-day diet.
“Instead of red meat, I generally eat salmon,” she said. “I believe fish is more healthy and nutritional. And also, lots of water. I drink a minimum of five litres of water every day.”
Merve Aydn is an 800-metre athlete who will run at the Olympics for the first time. Her daily intake is 3,000 calories. Although she is rigorously training for the Games, she remains guarded on the outcome.
“It is more important for me to realise my true potential and limitations. And do the best I can. I work hard and keep a careful diet,” she says. (Editing by Ossian Shine)