(AFP) – Jul 23, 2008
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran's double Olympic gold medallist Hossein Rezazadeh has pulled out of the 2008 Games because he was not in good enough shape to defend his title, a weightlifting official said.
"Mr. Rezazadeh had eight months of heavy training while having stomach problems," Iranian weightlifting federation public relations, Mahmoud Abdollahi told AFP late Wednesday.
"His age (30) also was part of the decision so he listened to the medical commission advice and said enough was enough.
"Another reason was that despite his training he did not achieve his desired record," Abdollahi said.
According to the Iranian official the younger Rashid Sharifi has been training as a backup for Rezazadeh - nicknamed 'the Iranian Hercules' -. Abdollahi did not give any information about Sharifi.
Weighing more than 161 kilos (355 pounds), Rezazadeh holds world records in snatch (213 kilos), clean jerk (263 kilos) and total (472 kilos).
He is known for always invoking the name of Abolfazl, the half-brother of Hussain, the Prophet Mohammed's grandson and third Imam of Shia Islam, as part of his routine.
He also has the inscription of "Ya Abolfazl" printed across his vest in competition - something that has on occasion provoked the ire of sporting authorities keen to keep all slogans off kit.
Iranians had high hopes as their "Hercules" was on a mission to achieve weightlifting immortality by completing his labour of winning a third Olympic gold medal in Beijing.
Rezazadeh's breakthrough came in the 2000 Sydney Olympics when he equalled the heaviest lift in 80 years of Olympic weightlifting history, a massive 262.5kg, to take gold in a dramatic superheavyweight showdown.
He then followed this with gold at the 2004 Athens Games and became a major celebrity in Iran where his massive frame endorsed products from banks to mineral water.
But the road to Beijing as not been easy. Rezazadeh was injured in a car crash in August 2007 when the vehicle taking him to a training camp in northern Iran swerved into a mountainside in heavy fog.
He last competed at the Asian Games in Doha in December 2006.
"Weightlifting is a sport known for its records and in the past eight months I have been training well but not in a way to hurt my body," Rezazadeh earlier told AFP during pre-Olympic training at Tehran's Azadi Stadium.
"My effort is headed towards victory in the Olympics," he added.
Save for the Soviet-boycotted 1984 Games, he has been the only non ex-Soviet lifter to win an Olympic gold in the over-105kg category.
"You see even a small injury puts you back at least 10 days from regular training and consequently away from achieving any record," he said.
"With a gold medal I want to bring happiness to the heart of 70 million people, but one has to know that strength does not remain with one forever," he added.
Rezazadeh was born in the provincial capital city of Ardebil in western Iran, and encouraged into weightlifting by his gym teacher.
He impressed with his patriotism when after the 2004 Athens Olympics, he rejected Turkey and Greek's lucrative offers to switch nationality and win a gold medal for them in the games.
Rezazadeh's frequent appearances in endorsements have also caused controversy.
Iran in July banned sports and movie stars from appearing in commercial advertisements on the grounds that celebrities should not promote consumerism, in a move apparently aimed at the weightlifter and some film stars.
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