Asli Cakir Alptekin led a shock 1-2 for Turkey when she won the women’s Olympic 1,500m on Friday in 4 minutes, 10.23 seconds, handing her country a first-ever gold medal in track and field.
European champion Alptekin, who served a two-year doping ban from 2004 to 2006, kicked for home and held her nerve for gold ahead of fast-finishing teammate Gamze Bulut.
Bulut, who also took European silver behind Alptekin in Helsinki and has improved her time in the event by almost 15 seconds this season, took silver in 4:10.40.
Bahrain’s Ethiopian-born import Maryam Jamal claimed bronze, a further 0.34 seconds adrift.
The Turkish medal haul doubled the two silvers that Ethiopian-born Elvan Abeylegesse won in the women’s 5,000m and 10,000m in 2008.
Turkey’s two other Olympic track-and-field medals were bronzes won by Esref Apak in the men’s hammer in 2004 and Ruhi Sarialp in the men’s triple jump in 1948.
“We came here to take the gold and silver medals for this competition,” said Alptekin, who was caught doping after racing in the steeplechase in the world junior championships in 2004.
“We wanted two medals and we got them. It’s like gaining two gold medals. Every athlete dreams of a medal in the Olympic Games. This is the Turkish power,” Alptekin said.
“I began athletics in the 1,500m and when I came to junior level, the entry standard was so high that I tried steeplechase,” she added. “Then my husband and coach said I am stronger in the 1,500m, so we made a choice to change.”
Bulut said she was happy to have clocked a personal best alongside her close friend Alptekin.
“I was not the favorite before this competition, but I did run a 4:06 in qualification and 4:01 in the semi-final and now this is my personal best,” she said.
“We take home two medals and I would like to say again, this is the Turkish power,” she added.
Of Alptekin, she said: “We are like sisters and we run every competition together.”
Jamal said she was satisfied to have gone two better than in the Beijing Games in 2008, the two-times world champion in 2007 and 2009 having suffered a string of injuries in recent seasons.
“I’m really happy with the bronze position,” Jamal said.
Originally known as Zenebech Tola, she moved to Lausanne in 2002 seeking Swiss citizenship, but failed in this endeavor before turning to Bahrain.
“Four years ago I finished No. 5 and now I’m No. 3 so I’m happy,” she said.
“In my last 150m, I made a small mistake and bumped into Bulut so had to start my stride again,” she added.
Jamal, who has raced only three races this season, added: “I have won a lot of medals throughout my career, but this bronze medal is second to none.”