Legendary Olympic gold medalist Turkish weightlifter
I was very sad when I heard the death of Olympic gold medalist Turkish weightlifter Naim Süleymanoğlu on Nov. 18
He, known as “pocket Hercules,” was someone who could lift weights three times his own size at a very young age. He left the world too soon. He was only 50.
Sometimes a person can lift barbells but cannot carry the burdens of life.
He made us experience the pride of having someone representing Turkey become world champion so many times.
He was a legendary three-time Olympic champion.
But his success was not just a regular championship.
He made me dream that we too can become Olympic champions.
The fact that a man the size of a child can carry a burden so heavy, bigger than himself, changed many things in my mind.
He had an endearing smile. Each time he lifted and put down those huge barbells, he would smile.
He was so strong; he proved to the whole world the strength a man his size can have.
You carried the weight of the world on your shoulders for all those years, but in the end could not recover from a liver transplant surgery. But, of course, you were also only human.
Who knows what kind of other burdens that little body carried throughout the years that made him strong and succeed in lifting those barbells.
Back in his championship days, I was a child and I would judge people’s bodies, ages and weight.
He made me believe that it is possible to break a world record at the age of 15.
He showed the whole world that a child can also break a world record!
I was 16 when he became an Olympic champion in Seoul, South Korea.
Back then, we lived in a very small world and televisions did not have the infinite number of channels that we have today.
We would watch other countries’ Olympic teams and dream by watching others’ big dreams.
And suddenly he came, Naim Süleymanoğlu, the Turkish weightlifter.
Maybe I have been affected by his death so much because I am at the same age as him.
But that would just undervalue his successes, because he is someone who has been reputed in the world as the best weightlifter of all times.
In the past, every time I pulled my huge and heavy luggage at Istanbul’s Haydarpaşa train station, I would remember him.
I would pretend to be Süleymanoğlu every time I had to carry something heavier than myself and motivate myself by saying, “You can do it, you can carry it!”
Five years ago I had a DNA test done. It said I had sports and long-distance running in my genes as well as a talent and strength in weightlifting. It made me laugh.
But then I thought about my skinny arms. How on earth could I be a weightlifter?
But immediately I remembered Süleymanoğlu.
Nobody could say by looking at this tiny 15-year-old man that he could lift three times his own weight.
But he did it. He lifted 200 kilograms!
At such a young age he was set to go down in history for carrying all of these weights and becoming the best in the world.
The marks some people leave on others can be very strong.
Süleymanoğlu, a man with a baby face, lifted barbells as if they were as light as feather.
He successfully lifted all those weights, but passed away at such a young age because he could not carry the burdens of life.
Thank you for making us proud and showing me that one can make dreams come true.
I hope you are relieved of your burdens.