Among the eight sprinters lined up at the start of the world 200 meters final and the 56,000 people in the crowd watching, only one man probably thought Ramil Guliyev would be the winner, and that was the Turkish athlete himself.
His faith was fully justified as 20.09 seconds later he crossed the line ahead of a host of favored rivals to take the gold medal that had been the property of Usain Bolt since 2009.
It was Turkey’s first-ever gold medal at a world athletics event.
Wayde van Niekerk, seeking a 400/200m double had to settle for silver in 20.11, a thousandth of a second ahead of Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago.
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has sent a congratulatory message to Guliyev over his victory.
The result was universally acclaimed as a shock but Guliyev, who was born in Azerbaijan
and became a Turkish citizen in 2011 before being cleared to represent his new country in 2013, was having none of it.
“This is not a shock,” he said. “I have shown my best throughout this competition. I delivered my best race at the right time.
“I was competing against some of the best athletes in the world, so it didn’t bother me that the attention was on them. Maybe at the next competition everyone will look at me instead.”
They certainly will and they probably should have been looking a little closer this time.
Whenever people questioned Bolt’s amazing times his supporters pointed to his remarkable performances as a teenager, particularly his junior 200m world record of 19.93.
It would have been a tough quiz question before Aug. 10 to name the second-fastest junior ever, but it was Guliyev, who posted 20.04 as a 19-year-old when representing Azerbaijan.Lost years
Those lost years when he battled with the sport’s officials to allow him to run for Turkey took him off the scene but when he came back he was not exactly tearing up trees.
A collection of medals from the Mediterranean Games, the Summer Universiade and the Islamic Solidarity Games did not mark him down for glory and even his silver at last year’s European Championships came when most of the continent’s top talent had skipped the event to concentrate on the Rio Olympics.
However, he reached last year’s Olympic final and has shown good form this season, taking gold at the European Team Championships and beating a decent field to win the Paris
Diamond League meeting.
Perhaps people should have taken more notice of his impressive run to win his semifinal heat on Aug. 9, but instead the focus was on third-placed Van Niekerk and how he had struggled because of his 400m exertions, and on the remarkable exploits of Isaac Makwala.
Those two were the center of attention on Aug. 10, with the extra diversion for home fans of Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake in land one.
But with all eyes elsewhere, Guliyev ran his own race and earned the ultimate prize.
“I knew I came in the first three but wasn’t sure where,” he said, which was no surprise when two hundredths of a second divided the medalists.
“It’s a dream for me and next it’s the Olympics, I hope that’s possible.”
Guliyev’s success echoed all around the country. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Sports Mnister Osman Aşkın Bak and Aziz Yıldırım, chairman of Fenerbahçe
club that Guliyev is an athlete of, released messages to congratulate the athlete for the historic result.