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2014-06-25

‘Strongest man in the world’ tips four nations for weightlifting glory at Rio 2016 Games

Iranian legend Hossein Reza Zadeh believes China, Russia, Iran and Poland will battle for golds at next Olympic Games

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Hossein Reza Zadeh still holds Olympic and world records in the super heavyweight category (Photo: Getty Images/Ezra Shaw)

Hossein Reza Zadeh is a national hero in Iran. The two-time Olympic champion and four-time world champion in weightliftng’s super heavyweight category (over 105kg) is known as ‘the strongest man in the world’. Although he retired from competition six years ago, Reza Zadeh remains an Olympic and world record holder. And while he will not contest the Rio 2016 Games, he will follow the competition closely.

“I hope the athletes are in a good physical condition and compete in an atmosphere of friendship,” said the 36-year-old. “In my opinion, the countries that devote more to prepare and invest more in their athletes will have greater success. I would bet that China, Russia, Iran, and Poland will win medals at the 2016 Games.”

As president of the Iranian Weightlifting Federation, Reza Zadeh is working towards the day when one of his compatriots breaks his records and takes over his nickname. He has already seen Behdad Salimi lift 214kg during the 2011 World Cup to break his record in the snatch.

“It is a great satisfaction to keep the world record for almost 15 years,” Reza Zadeh said. “With hard work, I managed to break the earlier marks and I hope that an athlete from my country can break the records now. Iranians have achieved great results in recent years. I have been president of the Iranian federation for five years now and people still call me the strongest man in the world.”

At the Sydney 2000 Games, Reza Zadeh ended of the supremacy of the Soviet Union, and countries from the former USSR, in the heaviest category of weightlifting. The Iranian impressive 472.5 kg (212.5 kg in the snatch and 260kg in the clean and jerk), setting new records in the category.

Reza Zadeh won his first Olympic title at 22 years old in Sydney (Photo:Getty Images/Robert Laberge)

Reza Zadeh's achievements earned him huge popularity in Iran – his wedding in 2003 was broadcast live on television. The following year, he went to the Athens Games and managed to add 3kg to his clean and jerk record. He became known as the ‘Iranian Hercules’ and a stadium bearing his name was built in his hometown of Ardabil.

Reza Zadeh’s goal for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games was to again beat his own records. However, shortly before the event, he was advised by doctors to retire from competition because of diabetes. He became the national team coach and later the president of the National Federation.

“I’m 36 years old now, so I’d have little chance to participate in the 2016 Games, even if I did not have diabetes,” Reza Zadeh said. “But I believe I could have competed in Beijing and London.”

The 152kg giant is now focused on helping his countrymen continue Iran’s fine weightlifting tradition at the first Games in South America. “I have never been to Rio de Janeiro and will do everything possible to be in town during the Games with the Iranian athletes. I have already started to do some research on Brazil.”

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