Observing Suleymanoglu from a far edge of the gym was Bulgarian coach Ivan Abadjiev, whose unique training methods had helped both Suleymanoglu and Topurov become world champions. Abadjiev's arduous system involves as many as seven heavy lifting sessions a day and has propelled Bulgaria past the long-dominant Soviets on the international lifting scene, especially in the lighter weight classes. In Cardiff, the Bulgarians would win 12 gold medals to the Soviets' 11 and defeat them in the team point race, 436 to 339. ( Poland finished third.) Abadjiev watched Suleymanoglu wistfully but would not talk of his former star pupil.
Suleymanoglu waited in the warmup room until Topurov successfully completed his first two lifts in the snatch. Suleymanoglu then snatched 145 kilos on his first try to match Topurov's best effort of the day. After Topurov failed at 147.5 kilos, Suleymanoglu had the weight increased to 150 kilos, which would be a world record.
Suleymanoglu had already lifted that much weight last December at a nonsanctioned meet in Ankara, where he set four unofficial world marks, including the 150-kilo snatch. The records were not recognized because there had been no drug testing, but Suleymanoglu's feats had left the crowd chanting wildly.
In Cardiff, a small knot of flag-waving Turkish spectators was ready to explode. Such is Suleymanoglu's popularity in his new home that the whole 132�-pound competition was being shown live on Turkish television. "Every Turkish person thinks Naim is like their son," said the commentator, Ertan Yuce.
Suleymanoglu strode slowly to the weights, eyes so fixed on the bar he seemed almost in a trance. "Suleymanoglu is great not only for what he lifts but how he lifts it," Doug Cooney, a former lifter and NBC's Olympic weightlifting commentator, had said earlier. "He has the ability to electrify an audience. Many will remember [Vasily] Alexeyev, the great Soviet superheavyweight, as having the same quality."
Suleymanoglu gripped the bar, lowered his hips and closed his eyes in meditation. His mouth curled into an O as if he were miming a fish. He looked to the ceiling and—ooof—the bar flashed up over his head. Straining, he rose from a deep crouch until he was standing with the 150 kilos held aloft. The lift was good. The Turkish fans burst into chants and rhythmic clapping. Abadjiev smiled. The Pocket Hercules had become the first man in history to snatch 2� times his body weight.
Next came the clean and jerk. Suleymanoglu hoisted 180 kilos to win but couldn't lift a potential record of 188.5 kilos. His combined total of 330 kilos nevertheless earned him his third gold medal of the meet and was 2.5 kilos better than the winning total in the next higher weight division, 148� pounds.
Suleymanoglu was not the only record setter in Cardiff. In all, seven world marks were established, four of them by the U.S.S.R.'s Yuri Zakharevich, king of the 242�-pound heavyweight class. Zakharevich, 25, who has now broken 33 world records, is himself a remarkable story. In 1983 he dislocated his left elbow during an attempt at a world-record snatch in Budapest and was told he would never lift again. But a doctor in Moscow rebuilt the elbow using synthetic tendons, and Zakharevich came back.
At Cardiff, Zakharevich snatched 203.5 kilos for one world mark, clean-and-jerked 250.5 kilos for another and twice broke the world combined record, first reaching (after IWF adjustments) 450 kilos and then 452.5 kilos. Zakharevich, who jokingly calls himself an "old man" in the increasingly youth-dominated sport, was closely pursued by 18-year-old Ronnie Weller of East Germany and 20-year-old Stefan Botev of Bulgaria, both of whom are expected to challenge for gold medals in Seoul.
Suleymanoglu, however, may not be in Seoul. Under International Olympic Committee rules, he won't be eligible to represent Turkey in Olympic competition until 1989, unless the Bulgarians grant him their permission. Turkish and Bulgarian sports officials were to meet this week in Sofia to discuss the matter, and sources said that in return for their acquiescence, the Bulgarians would demand a large sum of money—perhaps as much as $1 million—and assurances that Suleymanoglu will cease criticizing Bulgaria's treatment of Turks.