November 21st, 2017

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Two Generations of Soviet Super Heavyweights

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On the History in Color cover photo, two legends of the super heavyweight class, Anatoly Pisarenko (left) and Vasily Alexeev are having a conversation during training in February 1982.


2x Olympic champion and author of 80 world record, Vasily Alexeev retired from competitions after the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow and, at the time, worked with the national weightlifting team as one of the coaches.


Pisarenko was a rising super heavyweight star. He hasn’t reached his 260kg+ clean-and-jerks era but he is on the way. He was No. 3 on the list of the 110+kg athletes to compete for Team USSR at the 1980 Olympics – right behind Sultan Rakhmanov and Vasily Alexeev.


No. 3 seldom goes to compete and Anatoly was no exception.


His chance to win the Olympic gold medal was in 1984. However, that time the whole nation didn’t go because of the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.


Based on the Pisarenko’s interview, the coach-n-athlete chemistry between Alexeev and him never really worked.

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Bulgarian Weightlifting Stars

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On the History in Color photo (left to right):

Alexander Varbanov, Naim Suleymanoglu, Ivan Abadzhiev (Head Coach, Team Bulgaria), Asen Zlatev


Sadly, Naim Suleymanoglu and Ivan Abadzhiev died this year.


After I learned the sad news about Naim two days ago, I watched old film footage with him and Bulgarian lifters. One of those films was “School of Champions”, Bulgarian-made weightlifting documentary about Ivan Abadzhiev and his team. The film is based around the 1986 World Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria where Abadzhiev’s team won huge. Perhaps, it was an all-time best tournament for Team Bulgaria.


Anyway, Naim won the featerweight class with three world records and… the film doesn’t mention his name at all. The authors speak about everybody but Naim. The film was made the same year when Naim Suleymanoglu defected to Turkey (via Australia). Back in those days, it meant treason and his name was wiped out from everywhere possible in Bulgaria.


Interestingly enough, a few years later, when Abadzhiev was fired from coaching the national team and had to work as a security guard in some store or bank to support his family, it was nobody else but Naim who offered Abadzhiev to train Team Turkey.


It all happened a few years later. At the time when the photo was made, all four are on the top of the world of Olympic weightlifting,