Naim Süleymanoğlu

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameNaim•Süleymanoğlu
Used nameNaim•Süleymanoğlu
Nick/petnamesThe Pocket Hercules
Other namesNaim Suleimanov, Naum Shalamonov, Наим Сюлейманов, Наум Шаламанов
Born23 January 1967 in Ptichar, Kardzhali (BUL)
Died18 November 2017 in İstanbul, İstanbul (TUR)
Measurements150 cm / 60-64 kg
NOC Türkiye
Medals OG
Gold 3
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 3


It is likely that Naim Süleymanoğlu is the strongest man who has ever lived, pound-for-pound. Nicknamed “The Pocket Hercules,” he first came to international acclaim at age 14 at the World Junior Championships in São Paulo. At the 1984 European Championships he became the second man (after Bulgaria’s Stefan Topurov) to lift three times his own bodyweight overhead. Süleymanoğlu was also the first man to snatch 2½ times his own bodyweight (27 April 1988). Prior to the 1988 Olympics, he had set 32 world records before he was 22-years-old. Süleymanoğlu was 1982 World Junior champion, and at the 1983 World Championships became the youngest ever world record holder with snatch and total records at age 15, winning a silver medal. At the 1988 Olympics, Süleymanoğlu was absolutely dominant, lifting a weight which would have won the weight class above his.

He was born in Bulgaria and represented them until he defected to Turkey at the 1986 World Cup finals. Born Naim Suleimanov and of Bulgarian Turkish descent, he had made the decision a year before after he was quite upset when the Bulgarians changed his name to Naum Shalamanov in 1985, to remove vestiges of its Turkish origins. Once in Turkey, he changed the name again to a more Turkish one. In order to compete internationally for Turkey, the Bulgarian government was paid $1,000,000 by Turkey.

Süleymanoğlu was World Champion at 60 kg. in 1985, 1986, 1989, and 1991 and European Champion in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1988. He did not compete in 1987 because he had recently defected and was not allowed to until the Turkish authorities received permission from, and paid, the Bulgarians. He also did not compete in 1990, retiring briefly before making a successful comeback. In 1992 at Barcelona, he defended his Olympic championship despite his recent retirement, and won his third Olympic gold medal in 1996 at Atlanta. He also competed at Sydney in 2000 but failed to medal. He later entered politics in Turkey. Süleymanoğlu died very young after undergoing surgery for liver failure.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1988 Summer Olympics Weightlifting TUR Naim Süleymanoğlu
Featherweight, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1992 Summer Olympics Weightlifting TUR Naim Süleymanoğlu
Featherweight, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1996 Summer Olympics Weightlifting TUR Naim Süleymanoğlu
Featherweight, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
2000 Summer Olympics Weightlifting TUR Naim Süleymanoğlu
Featherweight, Men (Olympic) DNF

Olympic family relations

Special Notes