SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Weightlifter Naim Suleymanoglu on Wednesday dedicated the Olympic gold medal he won for Turkey to fellow minority Turks he left behind in communist Bulgaria, especially his family.
"There is always something going on in my heart," Suleymanoglu said when asked how he felt during the raising of the Turkish flag at Tuesday night's victory ceremony. "I am always thinking of the Turkish minority."Afterwards, even former Bulgarian teammates were among those honoring his performance.
"I spoke with most Bulgarians after the competition," said the 21-year-old superstar weightlifter, who measures only 5-foot-4 and weighs 114 kilograms. "They all congratulated me and I thanked them. That was all."
"In sports, I have done everything I can accomplish," he said through an interpreter at a press conference. "My biggest thought is of being together with my family."
"I don't think they saw anything of my success on Bulgarian television. But I hope they listened to Turkish radio, which can be heard there," Suleymanoglu said.
He said he has not seen his parents and two brothers since defecting from Bulgaria in 1986 on a trip to Australia.
Suleymanoglu, a Moslem, said he got out because of persecution of ethnic Turks in Bulgaria, including an official campaign to force them to adopt Slavic names. He set numerous world records under the name of Naum Shalamanov while competing for Bulgaria.
On Tuesday, Suleymanoglu set three world bests while winning the gold medal in the 60-kilogram category at the Seoul Games.
It was Turkey's first medal at the Games, reinforcing Suleymanoglu's national hero status. The entire Turkish Olympic team turned out to wave flags and sing the national anthem after his performance.
Suleymanoglu said Turkish president Turgut Ozal is sending his private plane to fly him home to Ankara later this week.
He said he plans to compete again at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and hopes for strong opponents "because I want to break more world records."