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    HomeSportsWeightliftingTurkish weightlifting legend Suleymanoglu remembered on anniversary of his death

    Turkish weightlifting legend Suleymanoglu remembered on anniversary of his death

    Naim Suleymanoglu became 1st weightlifter in history to score gold medals in 3 different Olympic events

    The sports world on Thursday commemorated the fifth anniversary of the death of Turkish weightlifting legend Naim Suleymanoglu.

    Turkish weightlifting legend Suleymanoglu remembered on anniversary of his death 1

    Nicknamed “Pocket Hercules” for his 1.47-meter (4-foot-10-inch) frame, Suleymanoglu went down in weightlifting history, bagging gold medals in three consecutive Olympic games: Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, and Atlanta 1996.

    This feat made him the first weightlifter to clinch gold medals at three different Olympic races.

    Born to an ethnic Turkish family in Kardzhali, southern Bulgaria in 1967, Suleymanoglu set a lifting record of 190 kilograms (419 pounds) in the clean and jerk in the 1988 Olympics.

    Although Suleymanoglu set his first world record when he was 16, he could not take part in the 1984 Olympics since Warsaw Bloc nation Bulgaria joined the Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles games.

    While competing for Bulgaria, the champion was picked as the world’s best weightlifter in 1984, 1985, and 1986.

    Escape from communist regime to Türkiye

    In 1986, Suleymanoglu took shelter in the Turkish Embassy in Australia after the Weightlifting World Cup in Melbourne, seeking to escape oppression in Bulgaria.

    The 1980s witnessed systematic state oppression of the country’s Turkish minority, forcing them to adopt Slavic names and prohibiting their language, with Suleymanoglu defecting to Türkiye in protest.

    The Communist regime in Bulgaria forced Turks to flee to neighboring Türkiye.

    It was in this period that the Bulgarian government changed Suleymanoglu’s name – without his consent – to Naum Shalamanov.

    Once the World Cup in Melbourne ended, Suleymanoglu risked his life but managed to escape from the Bulgarian camp with the help of the Turkish government.

    In a secret operation, Suleymanoglu was airlifted to Türkiye’s capital Ankara from Australia by Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal.

    The Turkish government paid Bulgaria $1 million to have Suleymanoglu compete for Türkiye in the 1988 Olympics, as Bulgaria allowed him to represent Türkiye in international competitions.

    Featured on cover of Time magazine

    In honor of his successful performance in the Seoul Games, in 1988, Suleymanoglu was featured on the cover of the Oct. 3 issue of Time magazine’s international edition.

    On Nov. 18, 2017, the Olypmpic champion passed away due to liver failure at the age of 50.

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