One of the greatest weightlifters of all time has successfully received a liver transplant after being hospitalized with liver failure in late September.
Former Turkish/Bulgarian weightlifter Naim Süleymanoğlu, now 50 years old, was rushed to surgery on October 6th after a donor was found. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took a personal interest in Süleymanoğlu’s case and asked to be “constantly informed” about his status while he was in hospital. He was visiting the Olympic gold medalist in hospital after the surgery when this photo was taken.
The news about the successful liver transplant could come as a relief to many in the weightlifting community, as fellow Turkish weightlifter Halil Mutlu had told reporters that there was a “big deficiency in organ donation in Turkey.” He added that his “only hope” was for Süleymanoğlu to receive a transplant and recover.
An article from the Turkey Telegraph appears to suggest that the transplant came from a friend of his, but we should note that the article appears to have been translated pretty roughly from Turkish and we can’t be sure of its word-for-word accuracy.
Naim Süleymanoğlu is often called the greatest weightlifter of all time. While titles like that are usually hyperbolic, his performance at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, at which he totaled 342.5kg at 59.7kg bodyweight, resulted in the highest Sinclair ever recorded: 500.7. He is one of just six people to have clean & jerked triple their bodyweight, which he did at least eight times throughout his career.
He was also known for his rivalry with the Greek weightlifter Valerios Leonidis, and their battle at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics was called “the greatest weightlifting competition in history” by announcer Lyn Jones. In under ten minutes, three world records were broken as they fought for gold. Süleymanoğlu ultimately came out on top with a world record total.
We’re delighted that Süleymanoğlu will live to lift another day.
Featured image via @russia_weightlifting on Instagram.