Sunday, 3 June 2012

A sporting classic from the past

The telly in this blogger's household leads a cushy life. It is in a state of perpetual rest. It is only occasionally called to perform and then immediately sent back to the state of rest with an apology for disturbing the slumber. All that changed a week or so ago.

You see, ESPN has bagged the rights to telecast the London Olympics which begin in a couple of months. As a lead up to this event, ESPN has been airing some memorable documentaries of past Olympics. If ESPN marketed those videos they are airing, I will stand in line for 72 hours in Chicago in freezing winter to buy them ! There are some absolutely riveting stories there. This post is about one such memorable sporting event.


Atlanta 1996. The rather unglamorous sport of weightlifting. What happened that Monday will go down in sporting legend as one of the great days of sport. It was the 64 kg category - not the man mountain variety. Naim Süleymanoğlu from Turkey was already a legend. Nicknamed the Pocket Hercules for his short stature, he was, pound for pound, the greatest weightlifter of all time. He was an absolute hero in his country. He was already a double gold medalist - from Seoul and Barcelona, but was now coming out of retirement to compete in Atlanta. His main competitor was the world record holder Valerios Leonidis of Greece. Adding spice to the contest was the fact the Greece and Turkey share a relationship somewhat akin to India & Pakistan.

The atmosphere in the hall was electric. On the left were legions of red Turkish supporters. On the right were the blue Greeks. Flags were waving everywhere. The noise was deafening. The event has two types of lifts - snatch and clean & jerk. Each lifter has three lifts in each category and the sum total decides the gold medal. When the snatch was over Naim had a 2.5 kg lead over Valerios. The drama reached a crescendo in clean & jerk. Naim went for a world record at 185 kg with his second lift and succeeded. Valerios asked for 187.5 kg for his second lift and succeeded, beating the world record  Naim had just set. Remember these guys were 64kg in body weight  - they were lifting three times their body weight. For his final lift Naim went for 187.5 kg and succeeded, equaling the world record just set, but would win the gold medal  since he was carrying a lead from the snatch. For the final lift of the competition, Valerios asked for an unbelievable 190 kg (10 kgs more than he had ever lifted before). He lifted it to his shoulders but couldn't complete the lift. The Pocket Hercules had won his third gold medal.   The men embraced. The public-address in a rare departure from the cript, actually said, "Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes today's competition, and you have probably witnessed one of the greatest weightlifting contests in the history of the world."

Later on as they lined up for the medals ceremony, Leonidis sportingly patted Süleymanoğlu and said "Naim, you are the best". To which Naim was reported to have replied , "No Valerios, WE are the best"

You can catch a little of the drama here. Of such stuff are sporting legends made.

17 comments:

Shachi said...

oh wow such a wonderful video - LOVED it! I switched the telly on after many weeks to watch Nadal play :)....I will have to check Olympics coverage here....I only have basic cable but I do have access to BBC online streaming 24x7 so I can just use that to watch the Olympics.

We had a grand plan to watch the London Olympics this year - we applied for tickets as soon as they went on sale but did not get anything we asked for....which turned out good coz I can't travel now. Some day :)

Vishal said...

Thank for one more piece of enlightenment, Ramesh! Even before I could see the video, I lived the entire experience... so lovely to see the real champions contesting for the ultimate gold. This is what sports always meant to be like! :)

gils said...

sportunu vantha neenga weightunu thirumbavum proviteenga thala

Ramesh said...

@Shachi - Rio 2016 beckons ! Watch out on BBC though - they won't stream live coverage of the Olympics to the US for that has been sold to NBC and the pity is they cover nothing that is not American :( Get cable now :)

@Vishal - Indeed. That is the glory of sport

@gilsu - Pun hopeless. You know how much I lack in the weight category !!

Shachi said...

@Ramesh - This is BBC UK....paid, legal account. It's basically a paid extension - legal(online streaming) of family's regular subscription in UK :). I am able to watch whatever they can and it covers more than just basic BBC. So I think I am covered :)!

Deepa said...

Totally LOVE it when you do these sports ones! :) :) Lucky you, catching all the drama on the tele; I first pick what I can watch and then run a batch on a weekend! :( :( :( hate it hate it hate it! Imagine treating French open like that.

Appu said...

The first thing occured to me was weightlifting? really?
This post has all things necessary to make the unglamorous very glamorous :)
The final lines represent the true Olympian spirits :)

TMM said...

And then a couple of weeks ago in India we had a 'sporting moment' of epic proportions when we had the owner (an actor) of a club cricket team doing cartwheels when his team won and the chief minister of the state of the winning team becoming the chief cheer leader and organizing a victory parade! quietly there was the real champ who had his 5th world title and not too many folks in the media had anything much to say about it.

Ramesh said...

@kiwi - Yes and No.Yeah we had all that hoopla relating to a funny game in pajamas, but there was a loot of hoopla in The Hindu (where else) on Anand as well - including customary interview with mother !!

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Running a batch process ??? Only a super intelligent girl like you would even think of that :)

@Zeno - Every sport is a great occasion, irrespective of the glamour associated with it - only a confirmed sports nut like me would say that, isn't it !!

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Running a batch process ??? Only a super intelligent girl like you would even think of that :)

@Zeno - Every sport is a great occasion, irrespective of the glamour associated with it - only a confirmed sports nut like me would say that, isn't it !!

Connecter said...

Truly amazing and a visual treat. Worth waiting outside a store to grab the golden moments. If people can stand outside a reliance fresh store in the morning to buy vegetable, nothing wrong to wait outside a store to grab the inspiring stories in sports - especially the ones that does not get a limelight.

Ramesh said...

@Connecter - Very true. If an aunty can stand in a line for veggies, you can do anything :):)

Hema said...

Your narrative added the glamour much required for this sport and nudged me to watch the video too.
I am amazed how they have trained to lift double their own weights!
And here I sometimes struggle to carry my shopping bags:( !

Ramesh said...

@Hema - Petite poets are not expected to carry their own shopping bags :)

Sandhya Sriram said...

there is something about Victory and even a high profile defeat for that matter, that is so special.

a surge of pure adrenalin, a pumped up ego, raging sentiments, war like atmostphere and then when it finishes, it is like a free fall from the top, a satisfaction, a settlement of emotions and a complete change of mood.

these moments are special, not just in sports, but even in real life (of course at much smaller intensity) and it is indeed a collection to be able to live these moments and we lived these through your eyes and words today. a true refresher.

I just wonder many times, that you have doreman gadget that gives you a 365 hour day, how much width you manage to cover and so much depth at the same time. amazing :-)

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Can I borrow your Doremon gadget ?? :):)

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