He is an ethnic Iranian Azeri, nicknamed “The Iranian Hercules“. He currently holds the world records in weightlifting’s super heavyweight class in the snatch, clean and jerk and total. He is the first Iranian athlete to have won two Olympic gold medals. He is also one of Iran’s most noted celebrities, frequently appearing on television and in the news; his wedding, which was held in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, in February of 2003 was broadcast live on state television in Iran.
In 2002 he was voted the “Champion of Champions” of Iran and was one of 16 Iranian athletes granted a badge of courage from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. As a reward for setting a world record at the 2003 World Weightlifting Championships in Vancouver, Canada, Mohammad Khatami awarded him 600 million rials (a little more than 60,000 USD) to buy a house in Tehran. After his spectacular performance, he was offered by Turkey’s Weightlifting Federation a stipend of US$20,000 a month, as well as a luxury villa and US$10 million reward if he switches nationalities and wins gold for Turkey at the 2004 Athens Olympics, but he turned down their offers. Rezazadeh rejected the tempting offer saying, “I am an Iranian and love my country and people.”
He surprised many at the 2000 Summer Olympics, earning a gold medal and breaking the decades-old monopoly on the gold by the Soviet Union and then Russia. His gold medal was the first since 1960 by a non-Soviet or non-Russian athlete in the over 105 kg class at a non boycotted Games. He has since broken his own records on a number of occasions leading up to his world record 263.5 kg (580.9 pounds) lift in the clean and jerk at the 2004 Summer Olympics. His total (both lifts combined) at the 2004 Summer Olympics of 472.5 kg was 17.5 kg more than silver medalist Viktors Ščerbatihs. He is the current IWF World Weightlifter of the Year, and was shortlisted for weightlifter of the century.
Rezazadeh’s supremacy in the superheavyweight class has been virtually unchallenged in recent years. However, although he had not been pushed hard during his career, he was in pursuit of the all-time best IWF marks of 216.0 kg snatch (Antonio Krastev, 1987), 266.0 kg clean and jerk (Leonid Taranenko, 1988), and 475.0 kg total (Taranenko, 1988). Even though they exceed Rezazadeh’s marks, these lifts are no longer the official world records due to the IWF’s restructuring of weight classes, but they still remain as the heaviest weights lifted.
Rezazadeh is also referred to by weightlifting commentators as “the strongest man in the world”, primarily due to his world records in the olympics.
In 2008, he was advised by Dr. Mohammad Ali Shahi, his physician and medical athletic trainer, not to participate in the 2008 Olympics due to his severe hand injuries and his high blood pressure. To his fans’ surprise and disappointment he officially announced in a letter read via National Iranian Television that he had accepted the advice.
The next day he wrote another public letter announcing his retirement from professional weightlifting. He said “I am pretty sure that my fellow country men will repeat my accomplishments again and I hope my son Abulfazl will break my own records in future”.
Right after his retirement he was appointed as the Prime Counselor for Iranian national weight lifting federation. Instead of him, young weightlifter Rashid Sharifi took part in 2008 Olympics gaining no place among the winners.
In September 2008, Rezazadeh was named manager and head coach of Iran’s national weightlifting team.
- Bodyweight: 162.95 kg (2004 Summer Olympics)
- Height: 6 foot 1 inch (1.86 metres)