Turkey caps Games of highs and lows

Turkey caps Games of highs and lows

LONDON - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey caps Games of highs and lows

World champion Rıza Kayaalp’s (top) bronze medal in men’s 120kg Greco-Roman was Turkey’s only medal in wrestling, while Mete Binay was among the weightlifters who completed the Games without a medal. AA Photo

The Olympic campaign has been a practice in extreme highs and lows for Turkey.

The country collected two gold medals, two silver and one bronze in the 2012 London Games, and although it improved its gold medal tally, its total number of medals was a step back from Beijing 2008.
Turkey had one gold and one silver medal from taekwondo and track and field each, and a bronze medal from wrestling rounding up the medal tally.

That might mean a shift of axis for Turkey: That was the first time Turkey claimed gold medals from taekwondo and track and field while the country had largely failed in its perennial strongholds, wrestling and weightlifting.

“Looking back, it was not a bad Olympics. We were not expecting medals from, say, badminton,” sports pundit Mert Aydın told NTV on the last day of the London Games. “We were expecting to get medals from wrestling and weightlifting, so that made our total medal tally look lower than usual.”

Just like Aydın, Banu Yelkovan was looking on the half-full side of the glass. The pundit focused on the country’s participation in many disciplines, including rhythmic gymnastics, women’s basketball and badminton, for the first time.

Turkey returned from Beijing with one gold, four silver and three bronze medals. The Athens 2004 campaign was even more successful, with three gold, three silver and four bronze medals to mark the best performance since 1960.

Failure in strongholds

Wrestling, which delivered 62 of the country’s 82 medals before London, proved to be the biggest disappointment, with numerous world and European champions failing to score medals. World champion Rıza Kayaalp’s bronze medal in the 120kg Greco-Roman was a mere consolation. The chairman of the Turkish Wrestling Federation failed to come up with answers.

“We had our hopes, and believed we could win gold medals. But we only wound up with one medal,” chairman Bekir Çeker told Anatolia news agency. “For what it was, our wrestlers fell short. Of course there is a problem, but we could not find out what that was.”

In the first week of the games, nine weightlifters came home empty-handed, with more than a few of them citing “extreme pressure” as a reason for failure.

“We are examining the situation. Yesterday we met with the men’s team coaches, and we will meet with the women’s coaches soon, but one of them, Nurcan Gönül, is hospitalized due to gastric bleeding due to overwhelming stress,” Turkish Weightlifting Federation chairman Hasan Akkuş said. “We were all shocked by the outcome of the games. Athletes told me they were under ‘extreme stress’ and underperformed. We are all shocked, just as you are.”

Turkish Athletics Federation chief Mehmet Terzi had reason to be proud of the performance in track and field.

Apart from a historic double win by first-place Aslı Çakır Alptekin and runner-up Gamze Bulut in the women’s 1500m, Nevin Yanıt came fifth in the women’s 110m final and Burcu Ayhan became the first Turkish athlete to advance to the women’s high jump final.

“We came here with 33 athletes, seven of them saw semifinals, and 11 of them were finalists,” Terzi said. “We knew they would be successful, but here, they outdid their performances. We are very happy.”

Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç, however, said Turkey would not be satisfied at all.

“For us, there is no number to be satisfied,” Kılıç said. “What matters most is that our athletes did the best they could. No matter how many medals Turkish athletes claim, there is no limit to them.”

Turks sub-par in G-20 list

Turkey had a mediocre performance on an alternative Olympic medal table that listed the major world economies.

Turkey completed the 2012 London Olympic Games with two gold medals, two silver and one bronze, landing the 32nd spot overall.

On the G-20 list, however, Turkey placed 13 out of 19 countries, excluding the European Union. Turkey surpassed Canada, Argentina, Mexico, India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. The United States completed the Olympics with 46 gold medals, ahead of runner-up China with 38 gold medals and host nation Great Britain with 29 gold medals.

The top eight nations in the overall medal table are all G-20 countries, while the best performing country outside the G-20 is Hungary, which collected eight gold medals, four silver.