Naim Suleymanoglu (b. 1967) is one of the most distinguished lifters in the history of world weightlifting. He was the first weightlifter in history to win gold medals at three Olympics. He would have been a favourite at Los Angeles, but for the Bulgarian boycott of the Los Angeles Games and, in 2000, he failed in his attempt to win his fourth gold in Sydney. Besides Olympic gold medals, he won seven world titles and six European championships. He has broken a total of 46 world records in his career.
Suleymanoglu is a graduate from famous Bulgarian weightlifting school. He was born Naim Suleimanov in Bulgaria, one of the two-million strong Turkish minority within Bulgarian borders. Suleymanoglu wanted to begin weightlifting when he was just 9 years old, stood 3-foot-9, and weighed 55 pounds. He eventually got his athletic career underway at 12, when tests done by a Bulgarian sports school showed he was built to be a weightlifter. He began his athletic career competing for Bulgaria. After his defection to Turkey in 1986, he was given Turkish citizenship and, since then, he represented his new country at the world weightlifting competitions.
In June 1999, Naim Suleymanoglu was placed alongside such legends as Muhammad Ali, Pele, Jesse Owens and Michael Jordan as one of the 25 greatest athletes of the 20th century. That honor, awarded by the International Sports Journalist Association, speaks to the amazing accomplishments of the tiny Turk nicknamed “Pocket Hercules.”