Iran’s double Olympic gold medalist Hossein Rezazadeh has pulled out of next month’s Games because he is not in good enough shape to defend his title, a weightlifting official said.
“Mr. Rezazadeh had eight months of heavy training while having stomach problems,” Iranian weightlifting federation public relations spokesman Mahmoud Abdollahi said late on Wednesday. “His age  was also part of the decision, so he listened to the medical commission advice and said enough was enough.”
“Another reason was that, despite his training, he did not achieve his desired record,” Abdollahi said.
The Iranian official said the younger Rashid Sharifi has been training as a backup for Rezazadeh — nicknamed the “Iranian Hercules” — but did not give any information about Sharifi.
Weighing more than 161kg, Rezazadeh holds world records in snatch (213kg), clean jerk (263kg) and total (472kg).
He is known for always invoking the name of Abolfazl, the half-brother of Hussain, the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson and third Imam of Shia Islam, as part of his routine.
He also has the inscription “Ya Abolfazl” printed across his vest in competition — something that has on occasion provoked the ire of sporting authorities keen to keep all slogans off kit.
Iranians had high hopes as their “Hercules” was on a mission to achieve weightlifting immortality by winning a third Olympic gold medal in Beijing.
Rezazadeh’s breakthrough came in the 2000 Sydney Olympics when he equaled the heaviest lift in 80 years of Olympic weightlifting history, a massive 262.5kg, to take gold in a dramatic super-heavyweight showdown.
He then followed with gold at the 2004 Athens Games and became a major celebrity in Iran where his massive frame endorsed products from banks to mineral water.
But the road to Beijing has not been easy. Rezazadeh was injured in a car crash in last August when the vehicle taking him to a training camp in northern Iran swerved into a mountainside in heavy fog.
He last competed at the Asian Games in Doha in December 2006.
Save for the Soviet-boycotted 1984 Games, he has been the only non ex-Soviet lifter to win an Olympic gold in the over-105kg category.