INCHEON: Five facts about Iranian Hercules, Behdad Salimi, who competes for the Asian Games superheavy (+105kg) weightlifting title on Friday.
At 24 years old, Salimi is known as weightlifting’s “world’s strongest man”, holding the snatch world record of 214kg set in 2011. Salimi holds the Olympic (2012) and world (2011) titles.
The 6ft 6in (1.97 metre) 365lb (165kg) giant started lifting weights at the age of 12 in the northern city of Qaemshahr.
He reportedly took to it because even at that young age his huge body frame reminded him of his hero, Iran superheavyweight double Olympic champion Hossein Rezazadeh who set world records for the clean and jerk (263kg) and the combined (472kg).
Rezazadeh is so revered in Iran that his wedding in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, was broadcast live on Iranian TV.
After the 2012 London Olympics he and many other Iranian lifters reportedly refused to attend national training camp claiming that their head coach Kourosh Bagheri had been using offensive and abusive language.
Salimi was dismissed from the 2013 World Championships and Asian Championships squad after taking part in a heated national TV debate with the coach.
The row was settled this year and the lifters reinstated.
Salimi carried Iran’s flag at the Opening Cermenony in Incheon.
It looked like a matchstick in his giant hands. At one point he popped the large flag pole under his arm, as somebody might with a fold-up umbrella, and took a ‘selfie’.
He rated the honour of being chosen to carry Iran’s flag right up there with winning an Olympic gold. “I’m so happy being chosen to carry my country’s flag,” he said.
“Undoubtedly, it’s on a par with winning an Olympics gold medal for me.”
The weights Salimi lifts are colossal. He regularly clean and jerks 250kg (550lb) and his snatch world record is 214kg (471lb).
His best combined total of 464kg (1,020lb), made in Paris in 2011, is well in excess of half the 800kg weight of an average family saloon car.