Naim Süleymanoğlu

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Naim Süleymanoğlu
Naim Süleymanoğlu 1989 Paraguay stamp.jpg
Naim Süleymanoğlu on a Paraguayan stamp
Personal information
Nickname(s)The Pocket Hercules
Born(1967-01-23)23 January 1967
Ptichar, Momchilgrad municipality, Kardzhali Province, Bulgaria
Died18 November 2017(2017-11-18) (aged 50)
Istanbul, Turkey
Years active1985–2000
Height1.47 m (4 ft 10 in) (2000)
Weight62 kg (137 lb) (2000)
CountryBulgaria (1983–1986)
Turkey (1986–2000)
SportOlympic weightlifting
Event(s)56 kg (1983), 60 kg (1985–1992), 64 kg (1993–1996), 62 kg (2000)
Turned pro1983
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)
  • Snatch: 152.5 kg (1988, WR)
  • Clean & Jerk: 190.0 kg (1988, WR)
  • Total: 342.5 (1988, WR)
Updated on 28 October 2014.

Naim Süleymanoğlu (23 January 1967 – 18 November 2017), born in Bulgaria as Naim Suleimanov, 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.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] He is the only weightlifter to date to clean and jerk 10 kilos more than triple his bodyweight.[4]


Early life[edit]

Süleymanoğlu was born as Naim Syuleymanov (Bulgarian: Наим Сюлейманов) in Ptichar, Kardzhali Province, Bulgaria to an ethnic Turkish family. His father was a miner who stood only five feet tall, while is mother was four-foot-seven.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] As a result, Süleymanoğlu changed his name to Naum Shalamanov (Bulgarian: Наум Шаламанов) in 1985.[5]

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 back to Süleymanoğlu.[5]


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.[6] At the Olympics, his main competition was his old teammate form the Bulgarian team, Stefan Topurov. He came out for the snatch portion of the competition after all other athletes had finished and made three consecutive lifts, setting world records in his last two attempts. In the clean & jerk portion, Topurov completed a 175.0 kg clean & jerk after Süleymanoğlu, with his next two lifts Süleymanoğlu set two more world records and won his first Olympic gold. His last lift was a 190.0 kg clean & jerk was 3.15 times his bodyweight,[8] which is the highest ratio clean & jerk to bodyweight of all time. Using the Sinclair Coefficient his performance at the 1988 Seoul Olympics was the most dominating weightlifting performance of all time.[9] His total was high enough to win the weight class above his.[10] 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.

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, which guaranteed him the silver medal. Announcer Lynn Jones proclaimed "You have just witnessed the greatest weightlifting competition in history," according to Ken Jones in the London Independent.[11][12][13][14]

Süleymanoğlu made another comeback in a late attempt to earn a fourth gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, which would have been an Olympic record, but failed three attempts at 145 kg[15] 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.[2]

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.[16]

He suffered from cirrhosis of the liver for a long time.[17] In 2009, he was in hospital for nearly three months.[18]

On 25 September 2017, he was admitted to a hospital due to liver failure.[17] On 6 October, a liver transplantation was made when a liver donor was found.[17] On 11 November, he had surgery due to a hemorrhage in the brain and a subsequent edema. He died on 18 November 2017.[19]

Major results[edit]

Year Venue Weight Snatch (kg) Clean & Jerk (kg) Total Rank
1 2 3 Rank 1 2 3 Rank
Olympic Games
1988 South Korea Seoul, South Korea 60 kg 145.0 150.5 WR 152.5 WR 1 175.0 188.5 WR 190.0 WR 1 342.5 WR 1st, gold medalist(s)
1992 Spain Barcelona, Spain 60 kg 142.5 153 153 1 170 177.5 -- 1 320 1st, gold medalist(s)
1996 United States Atlanta, United States 64 kg 145 147.5 147.5 1 180 185 187.5 1 335 WR 1st, gold medalist(s)
2000 Australia Sydney, Australia 62 kg 145 145 145 --
World Championships
1983 Soviet Union Moscow, Soviet Union 60 kg 130.0 WR -- -- 1st, gold medalist(s) 160.0 -- -- 3rd, bronze medalist(s) 290.0 2nd, silver medalist(s)
1985 Sweden Södertälje, Sweden 60 kg 142.5 -- -- 1st, gold medalist(s) 180.0 -- -- 1st, gold medalist(s) 322.5 1st, gold medalist(s)
1986 Bulgaria Sofia, Bulgaria 60 kg 147.5 WR -- -- 1st, gold medalist(s) 187.5 -- -- 1st, gold medalist(s) 335.5 WR 1st, gold medalist(s)
1989 Greece Athens, Greece 60 kg 140.0 145.0 -- 1st, gold medalist(s) 172.5 172.5 192.5 1st, gold medalist(s) 317.5 1st, gold medalist(s)
1991 Germany Donaueschingen, Germany 60 kg 135.0 137.5 140.0 1st, gold medalist(s) 165.0 172.5 180.0 1st, gold medalist(s) 310.0 1st, gold medalist(s)
1993 Australia Melbourne, Australia 64 kg 140.0 145.0 -- 1st, gold medalist(s) 175.0 177.5 WR -- 1st, gold medalist(s) 322.5 WR 1st, gold medalist(s)
1994 Turkey Istanbul, Turkey 64 kg 142.5 145.0 147.5 WR 1st, gold medalist(s) 177.5 181.0 182.5 WR 1st, gold medalist(s) 330.0 WR 1st, gold medalist(s)
1995 China Guangzhou, China 64 kg 145.0 145.0 147.5 1st, gold medalist(s) 180.0 185.0 -- 1st, gold medalist(s) 327.5 1st, gold medalist(s)

Career bests[edit]


  1. ^ "Biography of Naim Süleymanoğlu". Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Weightlifting Hall of Fame". International Weightlifting Federation. Archived from the original on 2008-09-13. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  3. ^ "Naim Suleymanoglu".
  4. ^ "Who in the world has ever lifted three times their body weight?".
  5. ^ a b c Sandomir, Richard (2017-11-22). "Naim Suleymanoglu, 50, Dies; Weight Lifting's 'Pocket Hercules'". New York Times.
  6. ^ a b "Suleymanoglu Lifts Weights and Hearts with Extraordinary Hat-Trick". 1988-09-22.
  7. ^ The Policies of the Bulgarian Communist Party towards Jews, Roma, Pomaks and Turks (1944-89) Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine. (Bulgarian). By Ulrich Büchsenschütz. International Center for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations, 2000. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  8. ^ LA Time. "THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 5 : YOU NAME IT, HE LIFTS IT : Suleymanoglu Sets 3 World Records, Gives Turkey 1st Weightlifting Gold". Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  9. ^ Ledder, Glenn (2013). "Mathematics for the Life Sciences" p. 16.
  10. ^ "Naim Suleymanoglu Bio, Stats and Results".
  11. ^ 1996 Olympics Day 4.
  12. ^ Naim Suleymanoglu - A Third Gold Medal - Leonidas, World, Competition, and Jones - JRank Articles. Retrieved on 2014-08-10.
  13. ^ The New York Times: This Day In Sports. (1996-07-22). Retrieved on 2014-08-10.
  14. ^ Beijing 2008 Olympic Games: Mount Olympus Meets the Middle Kingdom. Encyclopædia Britannica
  15. ^ "Süleymanoglu Naim (TUR)".
  16. ^ "'Pocket Hercules,' 3-time Olympic weightlifting champion, dies at 50 | CBC Sports". CBC. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  17. ^ a b c "Champion Turkish weightlifter Süleymanoğlu dies at 50". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  18. ^Брат+Наима+Сулейманоглу%3A+И+в+Болгарии+есть+люди%2C+которые+хотят+стать+донорами
  19. ^ "Weightlifting legend Naim Süleymanoğlu dies at age 50". Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  20. ^ "World records from 1972 – 1992". Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  21. ^ "Naim Suleymanoglu".
  22. ^ Ledder, Glenn (29 August 2013). Mathematics for the Life Sciences: Calculus, Modeling, Probability, and Dynamical Systems. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-1-4614-7276-6.

External links[edit]