Today’s #TBT sports blog comes straight out of one of my sports comic books. It focuses on a tiny Olympic weightlifter with a memorable nickname who could effortlessly throw weight much heavier than himself around a gym.
Half of his clever nickname came from Hercules, son of the Greek mythological god Zeus, who was known for his feats of strength.
The other half of his nickname came from the tiny size of this amazing Olympic and World Weightlifting Champion.
Pocket Hercules showed uncommon strength for a person of his short stature. In addition, his interesting personal life story makes him one of the sports world’s all-time best personalities.
That’s why he also cleans and jerks his way into the #2 spot in my sports comic book Favorite Undersized Athletes.
Born to Turkish parents in Bulgaria during the country’s difficult Communist era, the tiny 5’4” and 134 lb. Naim Suleimanov enjoyed a quick rise to weightlifting fame and success as a Bulgarian featherweight. He won a silver medal in Moscow in 1983, a gold medal in Soldertage in 1985 and another gold medal in Sofia in 1986 in the World Weightlifting Championships.
Then, Suleimanov fled his country while competing in the 1986 World Cup in Melbourne, Australia. Soon after, Pocket Hercules journeyed to Turkey and became a legal Turkish citizen under the slightly new name of Naim Suleymanoglu.
While in Turkey, the chain smoking Pocket Hercules continued to dominate featherweight weightlifting. He competed for Turkey in three Olympics – 1988 in Seoul, 1992 in Barcelona and 1996 in Atlanta. He won gold medals in each of these Olympics after his new country paid his old country of Bulgaria $1,250,000 for the rights for him to compete as a Turk.
Pocket Hercules then proved his amazing strength by winning five more World Championships, all in the featherweight division, as a Turkish citizen.
Inducted into the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame in 2004, Suleymanoglu is remembered as one of the most decorated weightlifters ever. Holder of an incredible 46 world records, seven world championships and three Olympic gold medals, he is only one of seven lifters ever to clean and jerk three times his body weight.
Turkey’s national weightlifting team never needed a secret weapon or an ace in their pocket to surprise rivals at worldwide weightlifting competitions. They already had their very own, undersized Pocket Hercules to bring home the gold.
MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!