Ramil Guliyev, representing Turkey after switching allegiance from Azerbaijan, pulled off a shock 200 meters victory at the World Championships on
Thursday, edging an emotional favorite Wayde van Niekerk into second place in a blanket finish.
The 27-year-old Guliyev, who had never won a medal in a senior global event, finished just the stronger to triumph in 20.09 seconds before setting off on a lap of honor carrying the flags of both of his nations.
South African Van Niekerk, who took the 400m title on Tuesday, had been seeking to match American Michael Johnson’s achievement of doing the 200/400m double at the Gothenburg worlds in 1995, but had to settle for silver in 20.11 seconds.
Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago was given the same time but was relegated to third by one thousandth of a second.
Isaac Makwala of Botswana, the crowd favorite after his illness travails initially saw him barred from competing this week, started strongly but faded to sixth.
In the absence of Usain Bolt, who had won the event in the last four championships, it always looked a wide open race, but even with the most level playing field for a decade, few were looking at lane five for the likely winner.
Van Niekerk, Makwala, Richards and U.S. duo Isiah Young and Ameer Webb all looked stronger on paper, while the home crowd also focused on local favorite Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake, who eventually came through for fourth.
Those with a keen athletics eye might point to the fact that Guliyev’s junior best is second only to Bolt’s but, after a decade of minor medals in minor championships, and at the age of 27, his chances of global gold looked slim to say the least.