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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March 2004, 08:34 GMT
Lifting legacy
Naim Suleymanoglu: One of the all-time Olympic greats
Naim Suleymanoglu - one of the all-time Olympic greats
Weightlifting is the oldest of the modern Games competitions having made its debut in 1896 in Athens.

In the earliest days of the sport it was a case of he who lifts the most wins and it was only in 1920 when the forerunner to the International Weightlifting Federation was founded that a more structured approach was conceived.

Weight categories were implemented and different lifts were approved.

While one-armed lifts were part of the Olympics until 1928, the most commonly competed categories have been the snatch, clean-and-jerk and the press.

Those three disciplines were cut to two in 1976 when the press was eliminated due to the difficulty in judging the validity of the lifts.

While the disciplines have reduced, the weight classes have increased and from five prior to the Second World War, there are now eight for men and seven for women, who were invited to participate at the Olympics for the first time in 2000.

The sport has been dogged by drugs controversies and as a result the weights have been tweaked down the years in an attempt to scrap dubious records and start afresh.

The last time the sport implemented such a change was in 2000 ahead of the Sydney Games.

Although those changes mean that it is rare for an individual to defend the exact title they have previously won, three men can claim a hat-trick of golds at Olympic level.

Suleymanoglu weighed less than 64kg but could lift almost three times his body weight
Naim Suleymanoglu, the Bulgarian-born Turk is one of the most celebrated lifters and Olympians.

Suleymanoglu set his first world record at the age of 16 and won golds in 1988, 1992 and 1996 in the featherweight category.

The Greek duo of Pyrros Dimas and Akakios Kakhiasvilis equalled that record when they each won gold in Sydney.

While Albanian-born Dimas made it three in a row in the light-heavyweight class, his compatriot won his second middle heavyweight title after winning in the discontinued 100kg category in 1996.

Kakhiasvilis, who won his first gold under the flag of the Unified Team, joined a select band of athletes after winning in different categories in 1992 and 1996.

The USA's Tommy Kono made a jump of 15kg between 1952 and 1956 to win at lightweight and light heavyweight, a leap that bridged the middleweight division.

Norair Nurikyan of Bulgaria went down in weights to win golds at featherweight and bantamweight in 1972 and 1976.

And more recently, Turkey's Halil Mutlu has won titles at each of the last two Olympics in the lightest categories; the discontinued flyweight in 1996 and bantamweight in 2000.

Harold Sakata - aka Oddjob in the Bond film Goldfinger - won a silver medal in 1948
Kono won Mr World and Mr Universe titles in the 1950s, but today that unofficial title of the World's Strongest Man is held by the super-heavyweight Olympic champion.

The most celebrated strongest man in Olympic history was Vasili Alexeev who won back-to-back super heavyweight titles in 1972 and 1976 in an era during which he set 79 world records.

But while the big men take the plaudits, it is invariably the lightest champion who is in fact the stongest pound-for-pound.

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Men (since 1896; top five)
Soviet Union 44 25 2 71
USA 15 16 9 40
Bulgaria 11 16 7 34
France 9 2 4 15
China 7 7 8 22
Women (since 2000)
China 4 0 0 4
Colombia 1 0 0 1
Mexico 1 0 0 1
USA 1 0 0 1

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