Turkey had not won a single medal by Aug. 5 at the 2012 London Olympic Games, and the naysayers were busy at work writing all kinds of doomsday scenarios.
But wrestler Rıza Kayaalp broke the medal jinx on Monday Aug. 6, when he won the bronze in the Greco-Roman heavyweight (120 kilogram) division for Turkey's first medal. The 22-year-old Kayaalp, a world and European champion, was up against Georgian Guram Pherselidze in the battle for bronze. The Turkish wrestler led 1-0 in the first round and maintained his dominance in the second to eventually win the bout 2-0 and clinch Turkey's first medal at the Games
The tide finally changed in Turkey's favor and the country had won at total five medals -- two gold, two silver and one bronze -- by the time the Games ended on Sunday.
Friday, indeed, was an unforgettable day for Turkey -- the day Turks won three medals at the London Olympics.
Aslı Çakır Alptekin led a Turkish 1-2 when she held off Gamze Bulut to win the women's Olympic 1,500-meter gold on Friday after delivering a powerful final lap.
Alptekin, who won the European title in Helsinki two months ago, served a two-year ban for doping after testing positive in 2004. She looked powerful and strong on Friday, coming home in 4:10.23 with Bulut second in 4:10.40.
Commenting on her historic victory on Friday, undisputed champion Alptekin had this to say: “The lights were lit inside the stadium as the race took place at night. On the ground were spotlight shadows. Three shadows were visible before me in the last 100 meters. I was confused. I thought that the shadow on my right was one of my opponents and I started to run faster to beat this opponent. When I looked at one of the screens, I realized that it was not an opponent but rather my own shadow. I was relieved to know that I was ahead of my opponents.”
And there was more on this glorious day. Nur Tatar of Turkey had to make do with the silver after losing to defending champion Hwang Kyung-seon of South Korea in the women's welterweight final.
Hwang beat European champion Tatar 12-5 on Friday, but the Turk nonetheless won the second silver for her country.
On Thursday, Turkey's Servet Tazegül had won the men's taekwondo featherweight gold medal at the London Games -- beating Iran's Mohammad Baghrei Motamed 6-5 in the final. Tazegül, also the reigning world champion, dedicated the victory and gold medal to his mother, who died earlier this year.
In the final analysis, the Turks did not come home from London empty-handed. They won five medals, but there is plenty of room for improvement, as Minister of Sports Suat Kılıç has stated. Ramazan Şahin of Turkey, however, was due to compete for a bronze in the men's freestyle wrestling 66-kilogram division later on Sunday.