Four stars who shone brightest in Baku

22 May 2017
Combo pictures of athletes Azerbaijan's Ruslan Lunev (Top L), Turkey's Viktoria Zeynep Gunes (Top R), Azerbaijan's Marina Durunda (L) and Turkey's Ramil Guliev during the Baku 2017 4th Islamic Solidarity Games .
Azerbaijan's Marina Durunda performs during the Rhytmic Gymnastics Individual Women event
Turkey's Viktoria Zeynep Gunes competes during the women's 400 m Medley
Turkey's Ramil Guliev competes during the Men's 200m of the Athletics
Azerbaijan's Ruslan Lunev competes during the men's 25m rapid fire pistol event

With the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games set for its closing ceremony on Monday evening, AFP-Services has taken a look at the biggest stars to emerge from the fourth edition of the multisport event in Azerbaijan:


Azerbaijan's Marina Durunda was always likely to win multiple titles for the hosts in Baku and she did not disappoint with a golden treble.

The 19-year-old combined with Zhala Piriyeva to claim victory in the team competition by holding off an impressive Uzbekistan on the first official day of the Games.

The Ukrainian-born gymnast, who was taking part in her first major tournament since the 2016 Rio Olympics after a long injury absence, added two individual apparatus gold medals in the hoop and ribbon finals, as well as silver in the clubs and ball bronze.

"I know that I could have done better, but I'm happy because it's not a bad result," she said.

"This was very tiring because after the injury I had to work so hard. So I hope that maybe we will get one day off."

Despite still not feeling 100% fit after having surgery on her hand early in the year, Durunda headed straight to Budapest for the European championships last weekend, where she performed solidly and reached the hoop final.

Durunda will be expecting to do better though when she competes at the world championships in Italy on August 29, having had more time to work on her new routines.

Piriyeva, 16, also starred in the National Gymnastics Arena with two gold medals, while artistic gymnast Bence Talas also took two men's titles for the hosts.


There were no shortage of standout performers in the swimming pool at Baku 2017, and an honourable mention must go to Turkey's Ekaterina Avramova, who won five gold medals including the women's 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke.

Algeria's Souad Nefissa Cherouati - the only non-Turkish woman to win gold - triumphed in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle, while Maksym Shemberev powered to four men's golds for hosts Azerbaijan.

But the undisputed star of the Baku Aquatics Centre was Turkey's 18-year-old sensation Viktoria Zeynep Gunes, who conquered four individual titles - the women's 100m and 200m breaststroke and 200m and 400m medley - as well as taking gold in the 4x100m medley relay and silver in the 50m breaststroke. 

Gunes was one of three women to represent Turkey in swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics, along with Avramova and Baku 2017's 200m butterfly champion Nida Eliz Ustundag, and she is now hoping to shine at the world championships in Budapest.

"Everything is good," said Gunes, who like Durunda was born in Ukraine.

"There were no heats for me, so I was only swimming in the afternoon, which meant that I could be more relaxed."

After firing on all cylinders in her first Islamic Solidarity Games, the five-time world junior champion will now enter a tapering period before the senior worlds get underway in the Hungarian capital on July 14. 

And having helped Turkey top the swimming medal table in Baku with an eye-watering 26 gold medals - 17 for the women alone - Gunes will be looking to land her country's first-ever world championship medal.


With all the focus on Qatar's Asian record holder Femi Ogunode ahead of the men's sprint races, Ramil Guliev had slipped under the radar.

But the Azeri-born Turkish athlete proved a cut above his sprint rivals as he surged to 100 and 200-metre golds in impressive fashion.

Guliev showed plenty of promise on his way to 100-metre silver at the 2016 European championships, but he sealed the biggest wins of his career in Baku.

The 26-year-old powered to 100-metre glory ahead of Bahrain's Andrew Fisher in a personal best time of 10.06s on the opening day of athletics at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, with the red-hot favourite Ogunode down in seventh.

And it didn't stop there for Guliev as he repeated the trick in the 200-metre final two days later.

Guyana's Winston George was out of the blocks quickly, but Guliev produced a devastating straight to blow his rivals away in a time of 20.08s and seal the sprint double.

Guliev though was cruelly denied an unprecedented treble as his Turkey team were pipped to the post by Bahrain in the men's 4x100-metre relay.
Guliev - on the final leg - made rapid ground with Turkey adrift of Bahrain, but Fisher hurled himself over the line to snatch gold for the Gulf state.
Turkey and Guliev finished 0.01s behind despite the efforts of their star man.

Other mentions go to women's 100-metre winner Gina Bass, who won Gambia's maiden Solidarity Games gold, as well as Olympic star Ruth Jebet, who clinched the women's 3000-metre steeplechase and 5000-metre titles, but it's Guliev who gets the nod.


Azerbaijan drew down the curtain on the shooting competition with ten medals, six of them gold, and it was all thanks to Ruslan Lunev.

The Baku marksman alone claimed five titles at the 2017 Solidarity Games, striking gold in the 25-metre centre fire pistol, the 25-metre rapid fire pistol, the 25-metre standard pistol, the 10-metre air pistol as well as the mixed 10-metre air 50 pistol.

"I didn't expect to win five gold medals. Two or three maybe, with a couple of silvers or bronzes. But five gold... It's just perfect," said the sharpshooter.

His last gold, the mixed 10-metre air 50 pistol, has a special place in his heart, as it was bagged alongside cousin Nigar Nasirova.

"This last gold is very special because Nigar is my cousin. She's my mother's sister's daughter," said Lunev, who is the son of 2004 Olympic bronze medallist Irada Ashumova.

"We won the bronze in the European championship a few months ago so it was nice to get the gold together, especially in front of such a great crowd."

© AFP Services

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