Saturday, July 7, 2012

Image to Fill Space- The Pocket Hercules

Since I have just recently started working out, for the first time in six years, and on the occasion of the up-coming 2012 London Olympics, I thought it would be ironic (as I will never achieve his kind of muscular build) to feature an image of Turkish weight-lifting legend Naim Suleymanoglu.

Suleymanoglu, now age 45, won Olympic gold in three successive summer games: 1988 Seoul Olympics, 1992 Barcelona Olympics and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The weight-lifter whose name caused problems for American tv announcers is also perhaps the most high-profile athlete to defect from one country to another. Though there have been some athletes like the barefoot runner Zola Budd who was from South Africa, during apartheid, who moved to England to compete for the United Kingdom during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Suleymanoglu left Bulgaria in a much more defiant manner.

His defection from Bulgaria to Turkey, two countries that neighbor each other, came in Australia, of all places. Suleymanoglu left Bulgaria because ethnic Turks, such as himself, were persecuted by the then-communist regime in Sofia. But, now Bulgaria and Turkey actually get along quite well, the same cannot be said for Turkey and Syria. Suleymanoglu reportedly had a heart attack in 2009, at an incredibly young age, but we were unable to find detailed information on the web about his predicament.

We had wondered what happened to the Soviet weightlifter who was featured in the opening montage of the now-defunct "ABC's Wide World of Sports," and while we researching this piece, we thought we'd dig up that info.

We had assumed the weightlifter was Armenian, but Vasily Aleskseyev (1942-2011), who died last year at the age of 69, is listed as being Russian according to Wikipedia.

But, there is an Armenian weight-lifter Tigran Martiosian who won a world championship in 2010 in Antalya, Turkey, a country which Armenia has complicated relations with.

As for the other famous figure in the opening montage, the Slovenian (which was then a part of Yugoslavia) ski-jumper Vino Bogataj is alive and well; in fact, in recent years, he has been a ski instructor.

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