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Rezazadeh, Hossein (1978–)

Rezazadeh, Hossein
(1978–)

Hossein Rezazadeh is an Iranian weightlifter who has won two Olympic gold medals, four world championships, and two Asian championships. He is one of Iran's most popular celebrities.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Rezazadeh was born on 12 May 1978 in Ardabil, the capital of Ardabil province in Iranian Azerbaijan, the northwestern Turkish-speaking region of Iran. He is the third of seven children. At the age of fifteen his physical education teacher encouraged him to take up weightlifting.

Weighing 343 pounds and competing in the super heavyweight (+ 231 lb.) class, Rezazadeh earned his first international success at the 1999 world championships in Athens, when he won a bronze medal. At the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, he astonished everyone by first lifting 468 pounds in the snatch category (where the athlete lifts the weight at once) and then 573 pounds in the clean and jerk category (where the athlete lifts the weight up to below his neck and then raises it above his head) to break the world record. He easily won the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, where his combined total was 39 pounds more than that of the silver medallist, Viktors Scerbatihs of Latvia.

In Iran the city of Ardabil is known for the religious fervor of its inhabitants, and Rezazadeh is no exception. He shouts Allahu Akbar (Arabic: God is greatest) before each lift and wears a competition uniform bearing the name Abolfazl (also Abu'l-Fadl), a major Shi'ite saint known for his valor. His international successes and his religious demeanor have combined to make him a major celebrity in Iran. In 2002 he was voted champion of champions in Iran, and in February 2003 his wedding in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca was broadcast live on television in Iran. As a reward for setting yet another world record at the world championships in Vancouver, Iranian president mohammad khatami awarded him 600 million rials (about US$60,000) to buy a house in Tehran.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

Weightlifting is a discipline in which Iranians had excelled until the 1970s. Iran's first Olympic medallist, Moham-mad-Ja'far Salmasi, was a weightlifter who won a bronze medal at the 1948 London Summer Olympic Games. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Iranians won international medals in this discipline, always in the lighter weight categories. By the 1970s athletes from the Soviet bloc, benefiting from more scientific training methods, came to dominate the sport. Rezazadeh's contribution is thus remarkable for two reasons: one, he reconnected with Iran's past successes and two, he did so as a heavyweight, a category in which Iranians had not shone before.

THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE

Rezazadeh's weight class, the super heavyweights, had been dominated since 1960 by Soviet and then Russian athletes, so his earning a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Sydney created a major sensation. The Turkish government reportedly offered him a substantial sum of money if he accepted Turkish nationality to win a medal for Turkey at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, but unlike the former Bulgarian weightlifter and Olympic gold-medallist Naim Süleymanoglu who left Bulgaria to become a Turkish citizen, Rezazadeh refused the offer, which added more to his popularity at home.

LEGACY

Because of his success at the Olympics along with his religiousness and Iranian national pride, Rezazadeh will long be remembered as an important athlete in Iran. His records in weightlifting still stand as of 2007, making him one of the most revered athletes in that sport around the world.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

"Hossein Reza Zadeh: The Champion of Champions." Available from http://rezazadeh.hit.bg.

"Hossein Reza Zadeh Olympic Medals and Stats." Database Olympics. Available from http://www.databaseolympics.com.

"Raising the Bar: Iran Sets World Records to Win Gold." Sports Illustrated. Available from http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/olympics/2000.

                                      H. E. Chehabi

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Hossein Rezazadeh

Birth: 1978, Ardabil, Iran

Family: Married

Nationality: Iranian

Education: Iran

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 2000: Breaks world record in two events at Summer Olympic Games in Sydney; wins gold medal
  • 2003: Sets world record at World Championships in Vancouver
  • 2004: Wins gold medal at Summer Olympic Games in Athens

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