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Born in Bulgaria of Turkish descent, Suleymanov defected from Soviet Bulgaria in 1986 to resurface in Turkey, where he applied for citizenship. Citizenship was granted and he adopted his current name; he took part in the 1988 Summer Olympics, wearing the Turkish colours. The small athlete won the lightweight title and retired from competition at the age of 22; he couldn't stay away from competition for very long though, and he came back in 1991. He took part in the 1992 Summer Olympics, where he won a second Olympic gold medal. Naim announced he would retire following the 1996 Summer Olympics; he ended nicely, with a third Olympic title.