Naim Süleymanoğlu

Naim Süleymanoğlu (23 January 1967 – 18 November 2017) was a Bulgarian-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]

Naim Süleymanoğlu
Naim Süleymanoğlu 1989 Paraguay stamp.jpg
Naim Süleymanoğlu on a Paraguayan stamp
Personal information
Nickname(s)The Pocket Hercules
NationalityBulgarian, Turkish
CitizenshipBulgaria, Turkey
Born(1967-01-23)23 January 1967
Ptichar, Momchilgrad municipality, Kardzhali Province, Bulgaria
Died18 November 2017(2017-11-18) (aged 50)
Istanbul, Turkey
Years active1982–2000
Height1.51 m (4 ft 11 in) (2000)
Weight62 kg (137 lb) (2000)
CountryBulgaria (1977–1986)
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 2019.

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]. So he is widely considered as the best pound for pound weightlifter of all time and the strongest human in the last 100 years according to the Olympic committee Seoul 1988. [5]

After his death, a movie was made for Süleymanoğlu, called “Cep Herkülü: Naim Süleymanoğlu[6][circular reference]”. Released on November 22, 2019 in Turkey. This movie is about his life and his career.


Early lifeEdit

Süleymanoğlu was born as Naim Suleymanov 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] As a result, Süleymanoğlu changed his name to Naim Suleimanov (Bulgarian: Наум Шаламанов) in 1985.[7] but in 1986 the Bulgarian government changed it to Naum Shalamanov . As Naim desperately protested against his name change, eventually Naim decide to defect to Turkey.

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.[7]


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 $1.25 million for his release.[8] At the Olympics, 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 was 3.15 times his bodyweight,[10] which is the highest ratio clean and 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.[11] His total was high enough to win the weight class above his.[12] 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 him 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.[13][14][15][16]

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[17] 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.[18]

He suffered from cirrhosis of the liver for a long time.[19] In 2009, he was in hospital for nearly three months.[20]

Death and aftermathEdit

Grave of Naim Süleymanoğlu at Edirnekapı Cemetery, Istanbul.

On 25 September 2017, he was admitted to a hospital due to liver failure.[19] On 6 October, a liver transplantation was made when a liver donor was found.[19] On 11 November, he had surgery due to a hemorrhage in the brain and a subsequent edema. He died on 18 November 2017.[21] He was interred at the Edirnekapı Martyr's Cemetery in Istanbul.[22]

A Japanese woman claimed after his death that she had a daughter Sekai Mori by him, and filed a paternity case at a Turkish court. Süleymanoğlu's grave was opened on 4 July 2018 to take DNA sample.[22] A DNA test confirmed her claim.[23] He also had three daughters by a Turkish woman. [24]

Major resultsEdit

Year Venue Weight Snatch (kg) Clean & Jerk (kg) Total Rank
1 2 3 Rank 1 2 3 Rank
Olympic Games
1988   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  
1992   Barcelona, Spain 60 kg 142.5 153 153 1 170 177.5 1 320  
1996   Atlanta, United States 64 kg 145 147.5 147.5 1 180 185 187.5 1 335 WR  
2000   Sydney, Australia 62 kg 145 145 145
World Championships
1983   Moscow, Soviet Union 56 kg 130.0 WR   160.0   290.0  
1985   Södertälje, Sweden 60 kg 142.5   180.0   322.5  
1986   Sofia, Bulgaria 60 kg 147.5 WR   187.5   335.5 WR  
1989   Athens, Greece 60 kg 140.0 145.0   172.5 172.5 192.5   317.5  
1991   Donaueschingen, Germany 60 kg 135.0 137.5 140.0   165.0 172.5 180.0   310.0  
1993   Melbourne, Australia 64 kg 140.0 145.0   175.0 177.5 WR   322.5 WR  
1994   Istanbul, Turkey 64 kg 142.5 145.0 147.5 WR   177.5 181.0 182.5 WR   330.0 WR  
1995   Guangzhou, China 64 kg 145.0 145.0 147.5   180.0 185.0   327.5  
Friendship Games
1984   Varna, Bulgaria 56 kg 132.5 1 165.0 1 297.5  

Career bestsEdit


  1. ^ "Biography of Naim Süleymanoğlu". Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. 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. ^
  6. ^ "Cep Herkülü: Naim Süleymanoğlu - Vikipedi". (in Turkish). Retrieved 2020-02-08.
  7. ^ a b c Sandomir, Richard (2017-11-22). "Naim Suleymanoglu, 50, Dies; Weight Lifting's 'Pocket Hercules'". New York Times.
  8. ^ a b "Suleymanoglu Lifts Weights and Hearts with Extraordinary Hat-Trick". 1988-09-22.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Ledder, Glenn (2013). "Mathematics for the Life Sciences" p. 16.
  12. ^ "Naim Suleymanoglu Bio, Stats and Results". Archived from the original on 2020-04-17.
  13. ^ 1996 Olympics Day 4.
  14. ^ Naim Suleymanoglu - A Third Gold Medal - Leonidas, World, Competition, and Jones - JRank Articles. Retrieved on 2014-08-10.
  15. ^ The New York Times: This Day In Sports. (1996-07-22). Retrieved on 2014-08-10.
  16. ^ Beijing 2008 Olympic Games: Mount Olympus Meets the Middle Kingdom. Encyclopædia Britannica
  17. ^ "Süleymanoglu Naim (TUR)".
  18. ^ "'Pocket Hercules,' 3-time Olympic weightlifting champion, dies at 50 | CBC Sports". CBC. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  19. ^ a b c "Champion Turkish weightlifter Süleymanoğlu dies at 50". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  20. ^Брат+Наима+Сулейманоглу%3A+И+в+Болгарии+есть+люди%2C+которые+хотят+стать+донорами
  21. ^ "Weightlifting legend Naim Süleymanoğlu dies at age 50". Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  22. ^ a b "Naim Süleymanoğlu'nun mezarı açıldı". Hürriyet (in Turkish). 4 July 2018. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  23. ^ "Paternity test confirms Naim Süleymanoğlu's Japanese daughter". Daily Sabah. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  24. ^ Danyıldız, Canan (19 November 2017). "Naim Süleymanoğlu: İtiraf ediyorum, gizlediğim 4 çocuğum var!". Posta. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  25. ^ "World records from 1972 – 1992". Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  26. ^ "Naim Suleymanoglu".
  27. ^ 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 linksEdit