Turkey bounce back, Azerbaijan win first gold

14 May 2017

Turkey recovered from a slow start to once again dominate the swimming events on day two of the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games, while Maksym Shemberev claimed a first gold medal in the pool for hosts Azerbaijan.

Turkey are targeting nothing short of a gold medal in every single swimming race at these Solidarity Games, having travelled to Baku with a 37-strong squad and five coaches.

At the end of the swimming events on Sunday evening, they stood second behind Azerbaijan in the overall medals table with 18 golds, 10 of which have now come in the pool. 

However, things didn't go quite according to plan at the start of the day's action at the Baku Aquatic Centre.

In the first of Sunday's eight finals, Turkish swimmers Erge Can Gezmis and Doga Celik were stunned by Khader Ghetrich Baqlah, who struck late to win his second gold medal in as many days in the men's 200m freestyle.

After adding to his triumph in the 400m freesyle on Saturday, Baqlah will surely be emerging as something of a hero in his native Jordan, having almost doubled the country's gold medal haul at the Islamic Solidarity Games.

In the two previous editions of the Games to go ahead, in 2005 and 2013, Jordan picked up just three golds - but, thanks largely to Baqlah's efforts, they currently find themselves fifth in the overall medal table ahead of the likes of Algeria, Uzbekistan and Egypt.

Turkey's frustration deepened as they also failed to strike gold in the men's 200m breaststroke, where Gagarin Nathaniel finally broke Indonesia's duck.

Indonesian swimmers put in a series of solid performances to take a medal in every race on Saturday, but failed to land a single gold.

That changed when Nathaniel raced to the line ahead of Turkey's Alpkan Ornek in 2:17.23, with Syria's Azad Albarazi grabbing bronze.

Turkey finally got up and running in the third race as Metin Aydin claimed their first gold of the day, and sixth in the pool overall - although the 22-year-old survived an almighty scare as Indonesia's Triady Sidiq came thundering up behind him in the home straight of the men's 200m medley.

Aydin ultimately held on to win by 11 hundredths of a second, and that seemed to galvanise the Turkish swimmers as they dominated the next three races.

Ekaterina Avramova led compatriot Halime Zulal Zeren home in the women's 100m backstroke, and there was another one-two in the men's 100m butterfly, as Kaan Turker Ayar and Umit Can Gures touched ahead of defending champion Sidiq.

Aleyna Ozkan added further gold for Turkey in the women's 50m butterfly, but the biggest cheers of the day were reserved for Shemberev as he got Azerbaijan off the mark in the men's 1500m freestyle.

The 23-year-old - who was born in Ukraine - pulled away from Indonesia's Aflah Prawira at the 500m mark and never looked back, claiming gold in 15:07.29 to rapturous applause from the home fans at the Baku Aquatics Centre.

Turkey, of course, had to have the final word, and duly swept to a comfortable victory ahead of Indonesia and Pakistan in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay.

At the end of the second day's swimming action, Turkey are well on top with 21 medals - 10 gold, seven silver and four bronze.

Jordan are second thanks to Baqlah's two golds, with Indonesia - who have picked up 13 medals in total, but just one gold - in third ahead of Algeria and Azerbaijan.

There are eight more swimming finals to come on Monday, including the women's 100m freestyle and the men's 100m backstroke.

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