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Naim Süleymanoğlu (born in Bulgaria as Naim Suleimanov but forced to change to Naum Shalamanov) (Bulgarian: from Наим Сюлейманов to Наум Шаламанов; 23 January 1967 – 18 November 2017) was a Turkish, World and Olympic Champion in weightlifting, who was nicknamed “The Pocket Hercules” because of his small stature of 1.47 m (4 ft 10 in). In the 1988 Summer Olympics, he set a record by lifting 190 kg in the clean and jerk. He was awarded the Olympic Order in 2001. In 2000 and 2004, he was elected a member of the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame.

Süleymanoğlu is the first and only weightlifter to have snatched 2.5 times his body weight and also is the second of only seven lifters to date to clean and jerk three times his body weight. He is the only weightlifter to date to clean and jerk 10 kilos more than triple his bodyweight. Süleymanoğlu set his first world record at age 16 but missed his first chance at Olympic success in 1984, when Bulgaria joined the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.


Süleymanoğlu was born in Ptichar, Kardzhali Province, Bulgaria to a Turkish family. His father was a miner who stood only five feet tall, while is mother was four-foot-seven. He won championships in his teens and may have competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics had Bulgaria not joined in a boycott by the Eastern Bloc.

In the 1980s Bulgaria’s government implemented a program called the Revival Process which required ethnic minorities to adopt Slavic names and barred their languages. As a result, Süleymanoğlu changed his name to Naum Shalamanov in 1985.

While on a trip to the World Cup Final in Melbourne in 1986, Suleimanov escaped his handlers, and after several days in hiding, he defected at the Turkish Embassy in Canberra. After making his way to Istanbul, he changed his name to Süleymanoğlu.

In order for him to compete at the 1988 Seoul Olympics the Bulgarian government had to agree to release his eligibility to Turkey. The Turks paid Bulgaria $1 million for his release. At the Olympics, Süleymanoğlu did not disappoint, winning the featherweight gold medal. His performance was high enough to win the weight class above his. He retired at the age of 22, after winning the world championship in 1989. However, he returned in 1991 before winning a second Olympic gold medal at Barcelona in 1992. Between the Olympiads, Süleymanoğlu continued to win world titles and set records.

The 1996 Olympic Games were to be his swan song and he retired after winning a third consecutive Olympic gold medal in Atlanta at the 1996 Olympic Games. That competition was noted for the rivalry between himself and Greece's Valerios Leonidis, with the arena divided into partisan Turkish and Greek crowds. At the end of the competition they were the very last competitors remaining as they traded three straight world-record lifts; Süleymanoğlu managed to raise 187.5 kg and then Leonidis failed in his attempt to lift 190 kg and burst into tears, to which he took the silver medal and was comforted by Süleymanoğlu. Announcer Lynn Jones proclaimed "You have just witnessed the greatest weightlifting competition in history," according to Ken Jones in the London Independent.

Süleymanoğlu made another comeback in a late attempt to earn a fourth gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney but failed to lift 145 kg, which would have been an Olympic record, and was eliminated from the competition. He was awarded the Olympic Order in 2001. In 2000 and 2004 he was elected member of the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame.

At the 1999 general elections, he stood as an independent candidate to represent Bursa at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. In 2002 he was the candidate of the Nationalist Movement Party for the mayor of Kıraç municipality in Büyükçekmece district of Istanbul Province and represented the same party in general elections in 2006. He was unsuccessful in all these attempts.

He suffered from cirrhosis of the liver for a long time. In 2009 he was in hospital for nearly three months.

On 25 September 2017 he was admitted to a hospital due to the liver failure On 6 October a liver transplantation was made when a liver donor was found. On 11 November he had surgery due to a hemorrhage in the brain and a subsequent edema. He died on 18 November 2017.

source: wikipedia

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