Azerbaijan, Turkey on top at Solidarity Games

14 May 2017

Hosts Azerbaijan and Turkey as expected dominated the first full day of action at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku on Saturday winning 20 out of 30 gold medals up for offer.

On the day after a spectacular opening ceremony in the capital city's Olympic stadium, Turkey, the biggest team at the Games with 388 athletes, and the second biggest, Azerbaijan, both secured 10 gold medals.

The hosts, however, took top spot on the day, as they had nine silvers to seven for Turkey, although the Turks had a 27-22 overall medals lead.

There were golden successes also for Indonesia, Algeria, Iran and Jordan with two top places apiece, while single titles went to Uzbekistan and Egypt.

Turkey issued a stark warning to their rivals in the first of the action in the swimming pool as they utterly dominated 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."

The Turks also won two of the four shooting medals up for grabs, including the first of the games which went to Omer Akgun, who scored an impressive 249.8 points to win a tightly-contested men's 10m air rifle final.

Azerbaijan, as expected took the team gold in the rhythmic gymnastics and it was five-time world champion and national hero Rafael Agayev who led the way in karate as the hosts won two of the six golds on offer.

The 32-year-old Agayev easily disposed of his earlier opponents 3-0, 7-2 and 5-0 before the final in front of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and a vibrant home crwd.

Saadi Ghulam Abbas of Pakistan was also no match for the assertive Azeri, who grabbed an ippon within the first minute.

A yuko shortly after and four points were all that was needed for Agayev to triumph.

It was an even more emphatic story for the hosts over at the judo hall where the home judokas capped off an extraordinary day with six of the nine gold medals on offer.

Indonesia, meanwhile, secured both of their gold medals at the weighlifting as they took home four medals in total.

The southeast Asian country's haul included gold medals in both the men's -56 kg and women's -48 kg categories.

Turkey's Bediha Tunadagi prevented an Indonesian clean sweep of gold in the women's -53 kg.

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