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Naim Suleymanoglu, considered pound-for-pound the world's best weightlifter, shattered...

By
TED CHAN

SEOUL, South Korea -- Naim Suleymanoglu, considered pound-for-pound the world's best weightlifter, shattered three of his world records Tuesday to win the 132-pound division and present Turkey its first Olympic gold medal in two decades.

The diminuitive powerhouse, who defected from Bulgaria in 1986, lifted a record-setting total of 755 pounds (342.5 kilograms) to live up to his nickname, 'Pocket Herculues,' and easily outclass his opponents.

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Weightlifting officials quickly called his performace one of the greatest in Olympic weightlifting history.

'This is one night that will be remembered,' one official said.

Suleymanoglu's former Bulgarian teammate Stefan Topourov placed second with a combined 688 pounds (312.5 kg) and Ye Huanmi of China collected the bronze with 634 pounds (287.5 kg).

Suleymanoglu's former records were 330 pounds in the snatch, and 414 in the clean and jerk.

In addition to the combined-weight world record, the 4-foot-11 Suleymanoglu broke his own records in the snatch, 336 pounds (152.5 kg), and the clean and jerk, 419 pounds (190 kg), or more than three times his body weight.

Suleymanoglu attributed his strength to the people of Turkey, his ancestoral homeland.

'The source of my power comes from the six million people in Turkey and knowing they are watching me make world records at the Olympics,' he said.

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Bulgarian officials predicted Suleymanoglu could not maintain his abilities when he defected to Turkey after the World Cup championships in Australia in 1986. Suleymanoglu said his feats Tuesday proved them wrong.

'I live in much better conditions now,' Suleymanoglu said. 'I can still be a world-record holder in Turkey. I'm very happy to have defected to Turkey. I'm very, very happy that this has happened to me in the Olympics.'

Under international weightlifting rules, Suleymanoglu would have had to sit out three years after his defection. But Bulgaria waived the restrictions earlier this year, making him eligible for the Seoul Olympics.

Suleymanoglu's previous snatch record was set at the European Chmpionships in April when he returned to competition. The other records were made in 1986 when he still competed for Bulgaria.

The Olympic records for the snatch, clean and jerk and combined weight were considerably below Suleymanoglu's former world records. The Olympic marks fell easily as he built up to his new world standards.

Suleymanoglu had never performed in the Olympics. He began competing in 1981 and Bulgaria boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Nearly 100 Turkish flag-raising fans screamed support for Suleymanoglu. After his first lift, he shrugged, half-smirked and waved leisurely.

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After each world-breaking lift, he punched the air with his fist and came out for encore bows.

Suleymanoglu said he defected because Bulgarian officials forced residents of Turkish ancestory to change their names. He left his family behind and said he hopes Bulgaria will allow them to visit him in Turkey soon.

The diminuitive powerhouse, who defected from Bulgaria in 1986, lifted a record-setting total of 755 pounds (342.5 kilograms) to live up to his nickname, 'Pocket Herculues,' and easily outclass his opponents.

Weightlifting officials quickly called his performace one of the greatest in Olympic weightlifting history.

'This is one night that will be remembered,' one official said.

Suleymanoglu's former Bulgarian teammate Stefan Topourov placed second with a combined 688 pounds (312.5 kg) and Ye Huanmi of China collected the bronze with 634 pounds (287.5 kg).

In addition to the combined weight world record, the 4-foot-11 Suleymanoglu broke his own records in the snatch, 336 pounds (152.5 kg), and the clean and jerk, 419 pounds (190 kg), or more than three times his body weight.

Suleymanoglu attributed his strength to the people of Turkey, his ancestoral homeland.

'The source of my power comes from the six million people in Turkey and knowing they are watching me make world records at the Olympics,' he said.

Advertisement

Bulgarian officials predicted Suleymanoglu could not maintain his abilities when he defected to Turkey after the World Cup championships in Australia in 1986. Suleymanoglu said his feats Tuesday proved them wrong.

'I live in much better conditions now,' Suleymanoglu said. 'I can still be a world-record holder in Turkey. I'm very happy to have defected to Turkey. I'm very, very happy that this has happened to me in the Olympics.'

Under international weightlifting rules, Suleymanoglu would have had to sit out three years after his defection. But Bulgaria waived the restrictions earlier this year, making him eligible for the Seoul Olympics.

His previous world records were made at the European Chmpionships in April when Suleymanoglu returned to competition.

The Olympic records for the snatch, clean and jerk and combined weight were considerably below Suleymanoglu's former world records. The Olympic marks fell easily as he built up to his new world standards.

Suleymanoglu had never competed in the Olympics. He began competing in 1981 and Bulgaria boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Nearly 100 Turkish flag-raising fans screamed support for Suleymanoglu. After his first lift, he shrugged, half-smirked and waved leisurely.

After each world-breaking lift, he punched the air with his fist and came out for encore bows.

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Suleymanoglu said he defected because Bulgarian officials forced residents of Turkish ancestory to change their names. He left his family behind and said he hopes Bulgaria will allow them to visit him in Turkey soon.

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