By Semra Orkan, Sena Guler, Sinan Uslu, Emre Doğan and Metin Tokgöz
Turkey’s weightlifting legend Naim Suleymanoglu died on Saturday in Istanbul at the age of 50.
Bulgarian-born Suleymanoglu was admitted to the Memorial Atasehir Hospital on Sept. 28 due to liver failure caused by cirrhosis and underwent a liver transplant on Oct. 6. He remained in intensive care following a brain
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his condolences in his address at Justice and Development (AK) party's ordinary congress in his hometown Rize.
Later in a written statement, Erdogan said the late sportsman "will always be remembered with love and respect.''
"I wish Allah's mercy upon deceased Naim Suleymanoglu and offer condolences to his family, supporters and [our] sports society," read the statement.
Turkey's Youth and Sports Minister Osman Askin Bak also offered his condolences in a message and said "we are in deep sorrow" for the demise of Suleymanoglu.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin announced that Olympic and world champion, and national weightlifter Suleymanoglu’s funeral to be held in Istanbul on Sunday.
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.