Turkey has gotten off to a bad start at the London Olympics, in which the country is participating with a record number of athletes in a record number of sports, with Turkish athletes in the first nine days of the Games failing to win a single medal.
After weightlifting, which has been Turkey's second strongest field after wrestling in past international tournaments, turned out to be a complete failure, Turkey also had a bad start in wrestling, with the two Turkish wrestlers who competed on Sunday in the Greco-Roman style, one of them a former world champion, being eliminated.
Weightlifting was also a fiasco for Turkey in London Games. Following the disappointing performances of Erol Bilgin and Aylin Daşdelen, Sibel Şimşek, the European champion, who came fourth in the Games, and Mete Binay, the world champion, have also performed poorly and the Turkish weightlifting team of nine athletes returned home empty-handed. Turkey's so-called “Sultans of the Net,” the women's volleyball team, who lost out to the US on Sunday, said goodbye to the Games as well, while the so-called “Fairies of the Basket,” the Turkish women's basketball team, has managed to come out of the group matches and is to play Russia on Tuesday in the semi-finals.
According to Turgay Renklikurt, a columnist for the Güneş daily, the cause of the failures in weightlifting lies in the fact that Turkey has fallen behind in pharmaceutical technology regarding doping research and detection. Renklikurt makes reference to an unfortunate case in which, only a couple of days before the start of the Games, two of the weightlifters in the Turkish team were dropped from the list of athletes set to compete because the International Weightlifting Federation had warned Turkey there were suspicions that the they may have been doping, according to analysis results.
“When the rumor that Turkish weightlifters were doping started to circulate, all eyes turned on the Turkish weightlifters, which in turn caused anxiety in our athletes in the Games who were worried that they too would be found to have taken an illegal substance without their knowledge. And the failure came,” Renklikurt commented to Today's Zaman. Barış Kuyucu, sports director of Al Jazeera Turk, also believes that the high expectations for medals in weightlifting by Turkish officials, which has put a great deal of pressure on athletes, may have negatively affected the weightlifters' performance. “The fact that the Turkish team lacked a weightlifter who would be a source of inspiration for others in the team may have also had a negative role,” Kuyucu told Today's Zaman.
At the London Olympic Games, to which Turkey has sent a record 114 athletes in 16 events, weightlifting and women's volleyball are not the only fields in which Turkey's hopes have been frustrated. In judo, Turkey had two athletes, both of whom were eliminated. In swimming, Turkey has had no success either. Kemal Gürdal, who competed for Turkey in the 100 meters freestyle, Ediz Yıldırımer in the 1,500 meters, and for the women, Burcu Dolunay in the 50 meters freestyle, were all eliminated. Out of the six Turkish boxers who competed at the Games, only two are still in the struggle for a medal.
In athletics, Turkey's score is not pleasing either. In the women's races, nine Turkish athletes, and in the men's, Polat Kemboi Arıkan, were eliminated, while Tarık Langat Akdağ who competed in the 3,000 meter steeplechase on Sunday evening came in ninth place. İlham Tanui Özbilen, who is through to the finals for the 1,500 meters, and Nevin Yanıt, who on Monday made it through to the semi-finals of the 100 meter hurdles, are the only athletes out of those who have already competed in London, who still stand a chance for a medal. Another female athlete, Aslı Çakır Alptekin, who is to compete on Monday in the 1,500 meters is also expected to get through the eliminations.
Still, Renklikurt is not of the opinion that the London Games have been a total failure for Turkey, and believes it's a success in itself that Turkey is participating in the Games in 16 events. “If we take success only as medals, then athletes would feel themselves under great pressure,” he said, noting that Turkey has to choose, in certain fields, an Olympic team from a pool of only about 2,000 athletes in the whole country. Kuyucu, who also remains hopeful, believes that Turkey still stands a chance of getting medals in wrestling and on the athletics track.