Turkey storm to five golds on opening day

13 May 2017
Turkey clinches 5 medals

Turkey issued a stark warning to their rivals in the pool on Saturday as they utterly dominated the first day of the swimming events at the Baku Aquatics Centre.

The Turkish swimmers set the tone with several noteworthy performances in the morning's heats, then lived up to their billing as favourites by securing no fewer than nine medals in seven races - five of them gold.

Yet though their team took a major step towards topping the Baku 2017 swimming medal table - having been pipped by Malaysia at the 2013 Solidarity Games - the Turkish staff admitted they had been targeting an even greater first-day haul.

"We were expecting at least 10 or 11 medals," said head coach Aykut Celik. "But we had a few problems and only ended up with nine."

"We want to win as many medals as we possibly can in swimming, to compensate for other sports where we aren't so strong."

Having made swimming one of their major priorities for the Solidarity Games, Turkey have travelled to Azerbaijan with 37 athletes - 20 men and 17 women - as well as five coaches.

The first member of their formidable line-up to grab gold was Ege Baser in the final of the 200m backstroke.

The 19-year-old produced a stunning late surge to win by almost two seconds from Algeria's Adbellah Ardjoune, in a time of 2:01.72, with Ricky Anggawidjaja of Indonesia taking bronze.

Defending champion Boris Kirillov of Azerbaijan thrilled the boisterous home crowd by powering into the lead at the halfway stage, but the 24-year-old's challenge faded in the final stretch and he had to settle for fourth place.

"I didn't think I could win until the last 50 metres," Baser admitted afterwards. "It's my first time at the Solidarity Games and I'm very happy to have taken a first gold medal for Turkey."

Viktoria Zeynep Gunes made it two golds in as many races for Turkey with a commanding victory in the women's 200m individual medley.

The 18-year-old led from start to finish and took top spot in 2:15.78, with silver medallist Ressa Dewi of Indonesia almost three seconds back and another Turk, Gizem Bozkurt, completing the podium.

Jordan became the second nation to strike swimming gold as Khader Ghetrich Baqlah won a sensational men's 400m freestyle race in 3:55.37.

Baqlah came in just one hundredth of a second ahead of Aflah Prawira on what turned out to be a frustrating day for Indonesia.

The Indonesians managed to win a medal in every race, but failed to land a single gold. In total they claimed four silver and four bronze, with Prawira, in particular, agonisingly close to victory.

Indonesia were also denied in the women's 800m freestyle, as Souad Nefissa Cherouati timed a late attack to perfection and came through to take gold for Algeria ahead of Indonesian pair Dewi and Raina Ramdhani.

Absent from the podium for the only time in the day, Turkey returned to the front line in the latter stages, as Gulsen Beste and Demir Atasoy led them to superb one-twos in the women's and men's 50m breaststroke.

Defending men's champion Atasoy showed all his experience to beat fellow compatriot and nearest rival Huseyin Emre Sakci, 10 years his junior, by one tenth of a second.

Turkey rounded out the day with a fifth and final gold as their men's 4x100m freestyle relay team cruised to victory ahead of Indonesia and Iran, proving that they will be the ones to beat in the pool over the next four days.

© Agence France-Presse

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