By Kubra Chohan
Thousands of people on Sunday gathered at the funeral service of Naim Suleymanoglu, a Turkish weightlifter who died on Saturday at the age of 50 in Istanbul.
Many prominent figures -- including Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul, Labor and Social Security Minister Julide Sarieroglu, Youth and Sports Minister Osman Askin Bak, Turkey’s Weightlifting Federation President Tamer Taspinar and Basketball Federation Chairman Hidayet Turkoglu-- attended the service at Fatih Mosque.
“On many occasions, he succeeded to raise our flag with a crescent and moon up to the flag pole and made 80 million of our people proud. I once again offer my condolences over death of legendary sportsman Naim Suleymanoglu who we lost at a young age”, Yildirim said.
Suleymanoglu, who was nicknamed Pocket Hercules due to his 1.47 meters (4 feet 10 inches) frame, was the first ever weightlifter to claim gold at three different Olympic Games.
“He dominated the sport for over a decade and by the time he finished his career, he had set an astonishing 46 world records,” according to the Olympic website.
Suleymanoglu set a record with a lift of 190 kilograms (419 pounds) in the clean and jerk in the 1988 Olympics.
Although Suleymanoglu set his first world record when he was 15, he missed his first chance at Olympic success in 1984 when Bulgaria joined the Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles games.
After winning the world championship in 1988, he retired at the age of 22. However, he returned in 1991 to win a second Olympic gold at Barcelona in 1992.
Four years later, he finally retired after winning a third Olympic gold in Atlanta.
In 2000 and 2004 he was elected to the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Olympic Order -- the highest award of the Olympic movement -- in 2001.