Hundreds of thousands of people crowded the streets of Istanbul on Saturday accompanying Turkish weightlifting superstar Naim Suleymanoglu on his last journey. The funeral of the triple Olympic, multiple world and European champion was attended by the Prime Minister of Turkey, the Minister of Sport and his family members, but also by several outstanding representatives of the sport from the recent past, e.g. Marinov, Peshalov, Topurov and from Greece his greatest rival and friend, Valerios Leonidis.
“Our relationship was not an ordinary one, since beside often competing against each other we were also true friends,” – said Greece’s weightlifter hero to www.iwf.net . He added that while respecting each other for their achievements, they were also very close as humans.
“Naim’s death is a giant blow not only for his family and friends, those close to him, but also for weightlifting and universal sports. I was deeply shaken by the tragic news and it really hurts because I lost a true friend and the world lost a true legend. The last time we met at the European Championships in Antalya in 2012 but we kept in touch on the phone and spoke frequently. To me there was no question that I would attend his funeral and accompany him to his last journey. It was my sad duty.”
Süleymanoğlu has died after having been placed into intensive care at the Ataşehir Memorial in Istanbul. The legendary weightlifter underwent a successful liver transplant early October. Süleymanoğlu was previously placed into intensive care on September 25 due to liver failure.
He was the Best Weightlifter of the Century and received the Olympic Order in 2001. He was also member of the IWF Hall of Fame.