Tuesday 24 April 2018

Swimming: Turkey sign off in style as Algeria snatch second

Swimming: Turkey sign off in style as Algeria snatch second
(AFP (eng) 05/17/17)
Swimming: Turkey sign off in style as Algeria snatch second

Turkey rounded off their magnificent swimming campaign at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku on Wednesday with another dominant performance in the pool on the fifth and final day of competition.

The current leaders of the overall medal table claimed six more golds to increase their swimming haul to a staggering 57 medals: 26 gold, 18 silver and 13 bronze.

Algeria were the day's other big winners, securing the remaining two gold medals to pip hosts Azerbaijan to second place in the discipline.

Having travelled to Baku with a formidable squad of 20 men, 17 women and five coaches, Turkey had made no secret of the fact that they were targeting a maximum number of gold medals in swimming, and they certainly lived up to their billing as favourites.

For the second day running, Viktoria Zeynep Gunes gave them a perfect start as she swept to her fourth individual gold of the week in the women's 200m breaststroke.

The 18-year-old - already champion in the 200m medley, 100m breaststroke and 400m medley - powered to the line ahead of Indonesia's Anandia Evato, while Daria Talanova grabbed Kyrgyzstan's solitary swimming medal with bronze.

Fifteen-year-old Aleyna Ozkan kept things ticking over for Turkey by winning the women's 100m butterfly, but there was a brief hiatus in the gold rush as Algeria claimed two superb victories in the men's 100m and women's 400m freestyle.

Defending champion Oussama Sahnoune had already won the 50m freestyle race on Monday, and he thundered to the line in the men's 100m free to make it a golden sprint double for the second straight Solidarity Games.

Minutes later, distance specialist Souad Nefissa Cherouati won a sensational women's 400m race to take her third freestyle gold of the week, having already secured the 800m and 1500m titles.

Cherouati timed a late attack to perfection as she came storming through to beat 200m freestyle champion Selen Ozbilen of Turkey and Indonesia's Ressa Dewi.

Those results, coupled with a Turkish clean sweep in the rest of Wednesday's races, saw Algeria finish second in the swimming medal table with 10 medals: five gold, two silver and three bronze.

Hosts Azerbaijan - whose four golds all came courtesy of one man, Maksym Shemberev - finished third, while Indonesia will be deeply frustrated to have come fourth.

Often the bridesmaid but too rarely the bride in Baku, Indonesia chalked up an impressive tally of 33 medals, but could only manage three golds, along with 17 silvers and 13 bronzes.

Ultimately, though, the swimming was all about one nation, and Turkey rounded out the final day in style with golds in the last four races.

Berk Ozkul won a keenly-contested men's 50m butterfly final ahead of teammate Ilker Altinbilek, before Ilknur Nihan Cakici added the 50m freestyle title to her earlier 100m crown.

Turkey completed the rout with their 25th and 26th gold medals in the pool as their men and women eased to victory in the 4x100m medley relays.

The women's quartet - boasting 11 individual titles between them - came in comfortably clear of Indonesia and Azerbaijan to make it an eye-watering 17 golds for Turkey from 20 women's races. Only Algeria's Cherouati resisted.

In fact, at the end of the swimming events, Turkey had taken almost exactly half of their 51 gold medals at the Solidarity Games in the pool.

Should they go on to top the overall medal table ahead of host nation Azerbaijan, it will be due in no small part to their remarkable exploits at the Baku Aquatics Centre.

Andrew SMITH

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