Shemberev shines for hosts as Turkey dominate

16 May 2017
Azerbaijan's Maksym Shemberev (gold) listens to the national anthem after the men's 800 m Freestyle at the Baku 2017.
Azerbaijan's Maksym Shemberev (gold), Indonsia's Aflah Prawira (silver) and Turkey's Ediz Yildirimer (bronze) after the men's 800 m Freestyle at the Baku 2017.

Maksym Shemberev helped Azerbaijan move up to second place in the swimming medal table as he claimed his third and fourth golds of the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games on the penultimate day in the pool.

Elsewhere, Turkey's gold rush continued unabated as they claimed victory in six of nine finals on a busy Tuesday at the Baku Aquatics Centre.

Ukrainian-born Shemberev has emerged as one of Azerbaijan's bona-fide stars at these Solidarity Games, and displayed his class once again to win the men's 200m butterfly and 800m freestyle.

While his margin of victory in the former race was just two seconds, the 23-year-old was irresistible in the latter, surging clear to finish 21 seconds ahead of silver medallist Aflah Prawira of Indonesia.

Shemberev thus added to his previous titles in the 1500m freestyle and 400m individual medley as Azerbaijan - who also grabbed bronze in the women's 4x100m freestyle relay - moved up to second in the swimming medal table with four golds.

In the other men's finals, Turkey's Demir Atasoy and Indonesia's Gede I Sudartawa both claimed their second golds of the Games.

"I'm so happy," Atasoy beamed after defending his 2013 title in the 100m breaststroke. "It was very important for me to come back and have another successful Games."

Atasoy, who also retained his 50m breaststroke crown on Saturday, once again held off teammate Huseyin Emre Sakci - 10 years his junior - to win in a new national record of 1:01.39.

"I set a new Turkish record one month ago, and in this race my friend [Sakci] and I both managed to break it!" the 29-year-old continued. "It's incredible, the pool is so fast."

"We have come to Baku with the best of the best, and not just in swimming. I'm happy to have won two golds for my team, and I hope we take more tomorrow."

While Turkey are now sitting pretty atop the swimming medal table with 20 golds, wins have proven rather more elusive for Indonesia, who secured just their third gold as Sudartawa added the 50m backstroke title to his 100m crown.

The women, meanwhile, have provided the foundations for Turkey's incredible swimming success, and so it proved again as they swept the board with five golds from a possible five on Tuesday.

Viktoria Zeynep Gunes set the tone by winning the first two races - the 100m breaststroke and 400m medley - within the space of 20 minutes.

"It's going well," said the 18-year-old, who now has three golds in total. "We are not really swimming heats in the morning, so we are more relaxed."
Ukrainian-born Gunes, who will be targeting further golds in the 200m breaststroke and 4x100m medley relay on Wednesday, is one of several Turkish swimmers eyeing up success at this summer's World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

"We are strong at the Solidarity Games because we don't have too many opponents," she admitted.

"I'm getting ready for Budapest, so this is a training period, and I'm not really at 100 per cent."

Another of Turkey's foreign-born stars hoping to shine in Hungary, Ekaterina Avramova, rounded out a hat-trick of wins in the women's backstroke events.

She outmuscled teammate Ilayda Kargin to secure 50m backstroke gold in 28:51, having already taken victory in the 100m and 200m races.
Avramova also anchored the Turkey team to victory in the final race of the day, the 4x100m freestyle.

Selen Ozbilen, aged just 16, completed the rout by winning the 200m freestyle in style ahead of fellow Turk Gizem Bozkurt.

The swimming events conclude on Wednesday with seven more finals, including the men's 100m freestyle and the women's 4x100m medley relay.

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