Çakir and Bulut make it a one-two for Turkey
|Asli Çakir and Gamze Bulut are all smiles after leading a Turkish
1-2 in the women's 1500m on Sunday.
The eventual winner, Asli Çakir had not run this summer after finishing third in the world indoor championships in Istanbul.
But she made up for it on the Helsinki track. In 10th position with two laps to go, by the bell reached in 3:07.4 Çakir was a close second to team-mate Bulut as they headed out onto what proved to be a lap of honour before the race finished.
300m to go and Çakir started to stretch her legs and there was nothing Bulut nor the rest of the field could do about it.
The final 400m was covered in a searing 57.92 and Bulut, the silver medallist was only a little more than 0.7sec slower.
The Finnish crowd are used to running, but even they were stunned into comparative silence.
As Çakir crossed the line and Bulut realised it was a Turkish one-two behind her, she let out a shriek of delight that could be heard across Lake Töölö to the city centre.
The battle for bronze was almost a side-show, but the fastest women in the field before the race started, Anna Mishchenko of the Ukraine, was taking her role seriously.
Sprinting out from the chasing pack she made a determined effort to close the gap at least on Bulut but it was clear she was making no impression at all.
Nonetheless, she appeared pleased with her medal while the two Turkish athletes set off on their official lap of honour draped in the national flag.
Turkey has won this race before, 10 years ago in Munich, when Süreyya Ayhan produced an equally stunning run.
The Ukraine has never won a medal before at this distance so Mishchenko was right to celebrate, though she must have expected better.
Certainly there was no hint in the semi-finals that the Turks would spring such a surprise.
Mishchenko took the first semi in 4:08.95 with Çakir half a second down, while Bulut finished one of a group of five in 4:11.
The final set off at a sprightly but not punishing pace with Russian Kristina Khaleyeva taking the field through the first lap in 66.09.
She was then joined by Germany’s Corinne Harrer who went through 800m in 2:18.67 with Russian Yekaterina Gorbunova in attendance.
But then the Turkish duo decided to take charge and unleashed their withering attack.
“The success of Turkish athletes in the middle distances began in 2002 when the first Turkish woman (Ayhan) got a gold medal,” explained Çakir.
“That inspired me back then. We're happy that we got gold and silver today, the next time we want to get all three!”
“To be second after my great idol Asli is like a gold medal for me,” enthused Bulut.
“When I saw that she overtook me, I shouted to her: go! This is my second race in Helsinki and I got silver”
Mishchenko was nonplussed by what happened. Even some time later, she was still stunned by events: “I don't know what to say.. It was good run and the medal wasn't a surprise, I just didn't know what colour it would be.”
At the world indoors held on home turf in Istanbul, Çakir had run 4:09.30 in the heats for a Turkish record and then bettered that in the final with 4:08.74.
In the final she finished third behind Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba who has figured prominently in the Diamond League this summer and Mariem Selsouli of Morocco.
Çakir’s outdoor best of 4:02.17 came in the last European championships in Barcelona where she finished fifth.
Her only other previous win over the distance came at the world university games last year when she won in 4:05.56.
She might want to have a go at her best for 800m which stands at a modest 2:03.09. She was only half a second slower than that here over the final 800m.
Bulut ran her personal best for 1500m this year, 4:03.42, in early June in Turkey. She also set PBs over 800m, 5000m and a national age-group record – she is just 19 - for the steeplechase of 9:34.88.
Mishchenko, meanwhile, has seen the back of Çakir’s vest before. She was beaten into silver by her at the world university games last year.