Showdown time for Azerbaijan and Turkey

20 May 2017
Baku 2017

It will go down to the wire in the battle for medal supremacy at the Islamic Solidarity Games between hosts Azerbaijan and regional powerhouse Turkey.

The two geographical neigbours have been nip and tuck atop the honours list since the games started on May 12 and it was more of the same on Saturday, two days ahead of the final day of competition.

By the time the dust had settled on another day of action, Azerbaijan were leading by just one gold -- 66 to 65 for Turkey -- with the Turks ahead in the overall medal count -- 173 to 134 in total.

Iran are assured of clinching third place, but with 24 golds, they are well adrift of the two top teams, who both started the games as the biggest delegations with well over 300 athletes for each country.

With the competition already scaling down ahead of Monday's closing ceremony, it will all come down to who wins most golds in the zurkhaneh and wushu finals.

The zurkhaneh ritual is a traditional heroic sport in Iran, combining martial arts, calisthenics, strength training and music, while wushu is a martial art developed in China.

In Saturday's action, Turkey took three golds on the final day of the athletics competition at Baku's Olympic stadium, which was drenched by heavy rain.

But it was Bahrain who produced more gold-medal magic to top the overall medal table there.

Azerbaijan's tally of 10 golds left them one short of Bahrain, while Turkey's final-day flourish saw them finish third in the athletics table.

Over in the wrestling hall, Azerbaijan had three wrestlers in the four finals disputed on Saturday and two of them claimed gold.

Local hero Haji Aliyev (61kg) and Jamaladdin Magomedov (125kg) both bagged gold medals for Azerbaijan, but Murtazali Raxmatulla Muslimov (70kg) had to settle for silver and Sharif Sharifov (86kg) took bronze.

Four days into the competition, the Azeris now hold fifteen wrestling medals, eight of them gold.

It was another good day for Turkey in the diving as they claimed the only gold of the day as Kivanc Gur struck late to triumph in the men's 10m platform.

Gur won with an overall score of 320.95 points ahead of Azerbaijan's Artem Danilov and Shahnam Nazarpour of Iran.

In the opening action in zurkhaneh, the men's team skills gold went to Iran, with Azerbaijan second and Afghanistan third.

Sunday sees finals in zurkhaneh, tennis, table-tennis, wrestling, diving, basketball, volleyball and football where the clash between Azerbaijan and Oman is sure to attract a capacity crowd to the Tofiq Bahramov stadium.

© AFP Services

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