(Reuters) - Former Olympic and world weightlifting champion Naim Suleymanoglu, one of the sport’s most successful athletes, has died aged 50 in a hospital in Istanbul, officials said on Saturday.
Suleymanoglu, known as the “Pocket Hercules” due to his short height of 1.47 metres, recently underwent a liver transplant.
“It’s a sad day for weightlifting,” Hasan Akkus, the president of the Turkish weightlifting federation and general secretary of the European weightlifting federation, told Reuters. “Naim was a phenomenal athlete.”
Bulgaria-born Suleymanoglu won three Olympic titles in the 60-kg and 64-kg categories between 1988 and 1996, competing for Turkey and seven world titles, competing for Bulgaria and Turkey.
After retiring, Suleymanoglu was an unsuccessful candidate in Turkey’s general election on two occasions.
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Ed Osmond