Naim Süleymanoğlu

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Naim Süleymanoğlu
A man in a blue leotard lifting weights.
Süleymanoğlu in 1996
Personal information
Birth nameNaim Syuleimanov
Nickname(s)The Pocket Hercules
CitizenshipBulgaria & Turkey
Born(1967-01-23)23 January 1967[citation needed]
Ptichar, Kardzhali Province, Bulgaria
Died18 November 2017(2017-11-18) (aged 50)
Istanbul, Turkey
Years active1982–2000
Height1.47 m (4 ft 10 in) (2000)
Weight62 kg (137 lb) (2000)
CountryBulgaria Bulgaria (1977–1986)
Turkey 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)

Naim Süleymanoğlu (Bulgarian: Наим Сюлейманоглу; 23 January 1967 – 18 November 2017) was a Bulgarian-born Turkish Olympic weightlifter. He was a seven-time World Weightlifting champion and a three-time Olympic gold medalist who set 46 world records. At 147 cm in height, Süleymanoğlu's short stature and great strength led to him being nicknamed "Pocket Hercules". He is widely considered as one of the greatest Olympic weightlifters of all time. He is the best pound-for-pound weightlifter in the history of weightlifting.

At the 1988 Summer Olympics, Süleymanoğlu set multiple world records in the featherweight division in the snatch, clean and jerk, and total.[1] Following the 1988 Summer Olympics, he made the cover of Time magazine. Süleymanoğlu went on to win Olympic gold in 1992 and 1996. He was awarded the Olympic Order in 2001. In 2000 and 2004, he was elected as a member of the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame.

Early life, early career, and defection to Turkey[edit]

Süleymanoğlu was born in Ptichar, Kardzhali Province, Bulgaria to an ethnic Turkish family. His father was a miner who stood only five feet tall, while his mother was four-foot-seven.[2] He set a world weightlifting record during his teens[3][4] and would have been an overwhelming favorite to win gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics had Bulgaria not joined in a boycott by the Eastern Bloc.[5]

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.[6] As a result, Süleymanoğlu was forced to change his name to Naum Shalamanov (Bulgarian: Наум Шаламанов) in 1985. He decided to leave Bulgaria after these experiences and he conducted encrypted correspondence with Turkish Squad during the period.[2][7]

While on a trip to the World Cup Final in Melbourne in 1986, Süleymanoğlu escaped his handlers, and after several days in hiding, he defected at the Turkish Embassy in Canberra. When Embassy officials reported the situation to Turgut Özal, The Prime Minister ordered him to be brought at once. He landed in London first, where he was transferred into a private jet to fly into Istanbul and Ankara eventually. After making his way to Istanbul, he changed his name back to Süleymanoğlu.[2]

In 2012, Süleymanoğlu said, "Against all the odds, I've never been nostalgic. After being treated with such attitude, you wouldn't regret it. The Bulgarians changed the names of 2 million people by force. It was a very difficult period. People who witnessed the events would know. I wouldn't change any of the decisions I took that day in my life. Even if I could set back the clock, I would still escape Bulgaria. Because as the Turkish people, we were too hard-pressed in Bulgaria."[8]

Olympic competition[edit]

In order for Süleymanoğlu to compete at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the Bulgarian government had to agree to release his eligibility to Turkey. The Turks paid Bulgaria $1.25 million for his release.[5]

At the Olympics, Süleymanoğlu competed in the featherweight division.[9] His main competition was his old teammate from 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 and jerk portion, Topurov completed a 175.0 kg clean and 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 and jerk that was 3.15 times his body weight,[10] which is the highest ratio clean and jerk to body weight of all time. Using the Sinclair coefficient, his performance at the 1988 Seoul Olympics was the most dominating weightlifting performance of all time.[11] His total was high enough to win the weight class above his.[1] After the 1988 Summer Olympics, Süleymanoğlu appeared on the cover of Time magazine.[4] The 4'10" Süleymanoğlu's "diminutive size and stunning strength"[2] led to him being nicknamed "Pocket Hercules".[3][4][2]

Süleymanoğlu retired from weightlifting at the age of 22 after winning the world championship in 1989.[12] However, he returned to the sport in 1991[3] and won a second Olympic gold medal in Barcelona in 1992.[2] 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 Süleymanoğlu and Greece's Valerios Leonidis, with the arena divided into partisan Turkish and Greek crowds. At the end of the competition, they were the 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 earned Süleymanoğlu the gold medal. In a show of sportsmanship Süleymanoğlu embraced Leonidis, who had broke down in tears. Announcer Lynn Jones proclaimed, "You have just witnessed the greatest weightlifting competition in history," according to Ken Jones of The Independent.[13][14][15]

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. However, he failed three attempts at 145 kg[16] and was eliminated from the competition.

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.[17][failed verification] He is the only weightlifter to date to clean and jerk 10 kilos more than triple his bodyweight.[18][better source needed]

Over the course of his career, Süleymanoğlu won seven World Weightlifting champion and three Olympic gold medals, and set a total of 46 world records.[4] He was awarded the Olympic Order in 2001.[19] In 2000 and 2004, he was elected a member of the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame.[4] Süleymanoğlu is widely considered to have been the best pound-for-pound Olympic weightlifter of all time, and one of the greatest Olympic weightlifters ever.[20] He is regarded as a national hero in Turkey.[2]

Political career[edit]

At the 1999 general elections, Süleymanoğlu 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; he represented the same party in general elections in 2006. Süleymanoğlu was unsuccessful in each of these bids for public office.[21]

Personal life and death[edit]

Süleymanoğlu suffered from cirrhosis of the liver.[22] In 2009, he was hospitalized for nearly three months.[23]

Grave of Naim Süleymanoğlu at Edirnekapı Cemetery, Istanbul.

On 25 September 2017, Süleymanoğlu was admitted to a hospital due to liver failure.[22] On 6 October, a liver transplantation was made when a liver donor was found.[22] On 11 November, he had surgery due to a hemorrhage in the brain and a subsequent edema. He died on 18 November 2017[19] and was interred at the Edirnekapı Martyr's Cemetery in Istanbul.[24]

After Süleymanoğlu's death, a movie about his life and career, Cep Herkülü: Naim Süleymanoğlu[25] was released in Turkey on November 22, 2019.

Süleymanoğlu's grave was opened on July 4, 2018 for the purpose of extracting a DNA sample. Following his death, a Japanese woman had claimed that her daughter, Sekai Mori, had been fathered by him, and filed a paternity case at a Turkish court.[24] A DNA test confirmed the paternity claim.[26] Süleymanoğlu also had three daughters by a Turkish woman.[27]

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 place, gold medalist(s)
1992 Spain Barcelona, Spain 60 kg 142.5 153 153 1 170 177.5 1 320 1st place, 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 place, gold medalist(s)
2000 Australia Sydney, Australia 62 kg 145 145 145
World Championships
1983 Soviet Union Moscow, Soviet Union 56 kg 130.0 WR 1st place, gold medalist(s) 160.0 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) 290.0 2nd place, silver medalist(s)
1985 Sweden Södertälje, Sweden 60 kg 142.5 1st place, gold medalist(s) 180.0 1st place, gold medalist(s) 322.5 1st place, gold medalist(s)
1986 Bulgaria Sofia, Bulgaria 60 kg 147.5 WR 1st place, gold medalist(s) 187.5 1st place, gold medalist(s) 335.5 WR 1st place, gold medalist(s)
1989 Greece Athens, Greece 60 kg 140.0 145.0 1st place, gold medalist(s) 172.5 172.5 192.5 1st place, gold medalist(s) 317.5 1st place, gold medalist(s)
1991 Germany Donaueschingen, Germany 60 kg 135.0 137.5 140.0 1st place, gold medalist(s) 165.0 172.5 180.0 1st place, gold medalist(s) 310.0 1st place, gold medalist(s)
1993 Australia Melbourne, Australia 64 kg 140.0 145.0 1st place, gold medalist(s) 175.0 177.5 WR 1st place, gold medalist(s) 322.5 WR 1st place, gold medalist(s)
1994 Turkey Istanbul, Turkey 64 kg 142.5 145.0 147.5 WR 1st place, gold medalist(s) 177.5 181.0 182.5 WR 1st place, gold medalist(s) 330.0 WR 1st place, gold medalist(s)
1995 China Guangzhou, China 64 kg 145.0 145.0 147.5 1st place, gold medalist(s) 180.0 185.0 1st place, gold medalist(s) 327.5 1st place, gold medalist(s)
Friendship Games
1984 Bulgaria Varna, Bulgaria 56 kg 132.5 1 165.0 1 297.5 1st place, gold medalist(s)

Career bests[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Biography of Naim Süleymanoğlu". Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sandomir, Richard (2017-11-22). "Naim Suleymanoglu, 50, Dies; Weight Lifting's 'Pocket Hercules'". New York Times.
  3. ^ a b c Hersh, Phil. "'POCKET HERCULES' LIFTS TURKEY TO NEW HEIGHTS". Chicago Tribune.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Turkey commemorates weightlifting legend Suleymanoglu".
  5. ^ a b "Suleymanoglu Lifts Weights and Hearts with Extraordinary Hat-Trick". 1988-09-22.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "The Revival Process and Naim Süleymanoğlu". Retrieved 2021-01-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Interview with Naim Süleymanoğlu". Retrieved 2021-01-21.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ "Naim Süleymanoğlu".
  10. ^ "THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 5 : YOU NAME IT, HE LIFTS IT : Suleymanoglu Sets 3 World Records, Gives Turkey 1st Weightlifting Gold". LA Times. 21 September 1988. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  11. ^ Ledder, Glenn (29 August 2013). Mathematics for the Life Sciences: Calculus, Modeling, Probability, and Dynamical Systems. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-4614-7276-6.
  12. ^ AA, Daily Sabah with (September 27, 2017). "Legendary weightlifter Süleymanoğlu fights for life". Daily Sabah.
  13. ^ 1996 Olympics Day 4.
  14. ^ The New York Times: This Day In Sports. (1996-07-22). Retrieved on 2014-08-10.
  15. ^ Beijing 2008 Olympic Games: Mount Olympus Meets the Middle Kingdom. Encyclopædia Britannica
  16. ^ "Süleymanoglu Naim (TUR)".
  17. ^ "Naim Suleymanoglu".
  18. ^ "Who in the world has ever lifted three times their body weight?".
  19. ^ a b AA, Daily Sabah with (November 18, 2017). "Weightlifting legend Naim Süleymanoğlu dies at age 50". Daily Sabah.
  20. ^ "Naim Suleymanoglu, considered pound-for-pound the world's best weightlifter, shattered..." UPI.
  21. ^ "'Pocket Hercules,' 3-time Olympic weightlifting champion, dies at 50 | CBC Sports". CBC. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  22. ^ a b c "Champion Turkish weightlifter Süleymanoğlu dies at 50". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  23. ^ "Брат Наима Сулейманоглу: И в Болгарии есть люди, которые хотят стать донорами -".
  24. ^ a b "Naim Süleymanoğlu'nun mezarı açıldı". Hürriyet (in Turkish). 4 July 2018. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  25. ^ "Cep Herkülü: Naim Süleymanoğlu (2019)". Retrieved 2020-02-08.
  26. ^ "Paternity test confirms Naim Süleymanoğlu's Japanese daughter". Daily Sabah. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  27. ^ Danyıldız, Canan (19 November 2017). "Naim Süleymanoğlu: İtiraf ediyorum, gizlediğim 4 çocuğum var!". Posta. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  28. ^ "World records from 1972 – 1992". Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  29. ^ "Naim Suleymanoglu".
  30. ^ 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.

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