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In a historic moment for Türkiye, 16-year-old short track speed skater Muhammed Bozdag clinched the country’s first-ever Winter Olympic medal at the Gangwon 2024 Youth Olympic Games. Bozdag’s extraordinary achievement marked a significant milestone, as Türkiye had never before secured a medal at the Winter Olympic Games or Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Bozdag’s triumphant journey unfolded on Sunday when he claimed the silver medal in the men’s 1000m short track speed skating event. Expressing his joy and disbelief at the accomplishment, Bozdag stated, «I was very happy to make history for Türkiye. My dream has come true today.»

The iconic image of Muhammed Bozdag waving the Turkish flag after successfully completing the 1000m short track speed skating final at Gangwon 2024 will forever be etched in Türkiye’s winter sports history. Bozdag initially crossed the line in third place, a podium finish that already filled him with immense pride. However, the event took a dramatic turn as a video replay revealed an incident that reshaped the outcome.

Chinese skater Zhang Bohao, who had initially finished first, was disqualified for causing the fall of Korean skater and 1500m gold medalist Jaehee Joo. This turn of events propelled Muhammed Bozdag from third place to a historic second place, with China’s Zhang Xinzhe promoted to the gold medal position, and Japan’s Kida Raito moving up to third.

Reflecting on this unexpected turn of events, Bozdag humbly remarked, «This result shows that I should believe in myself more. This medal is important, but this is just a start.»

Before this groundbreaking achievement, the best Winter Olympic performance by a Turkish athlete was Furkan Akar’s sixth-place finish in the same 1000m short track race at Beijing 2022. Akar, who was also the first athlete to represent Türkiye in short track at the Olympics, paved the way for Muhammed Bozdag’s historic breakthrough.

In claiming Türkiye’s first Winter Olympic medal, Muhammed Bozdag has not only etched his name in the annals of history but has also inspired future generations of Turkish winter athletes. The significance of this achievement resonates far beyond the podium, marking a new era for Türkiye in the world of winter sports. As Bozdag aptly stated, «This medal is important, but this is just a start,» signalling a promising future for Türkiye in the winter sporting arena.

Muhammed Bozdag TUR skates holding the national flag after the Short Track Speed Skating Men’s 1000m Final at the Gangneung Ice Arena. The Winter Youth Olympic Games, Gangwon, South Korea, Sunday 21 January 2024. Photo: OIS/Joe Toth. Handout image supplied by OIS/IOC