IN THE SPOTLIGHT | JABER SAEED SALEM, Qatar

IN THE SPOTLIGHT | JABER SAEED SALEM, Qatar

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Many believe Salem, 33, can challenge for the Olympic gold in the super heavyweight class. He is a seven-time world medal winner. He finished fourth at the 2000 Games in Sydney. The question is, will the former Bulgarian star show up? He mysteriously dropped out of the 2004 Games on the day of competition, spurring rolled eyes and rumors of drug use.

The unexpected withdrawal also left Qatar still seeking its first Olympic gold medal after an expensive attempt to land one. Salem -- then known as Yani Marchokov -- was one of eight Bulgarian weightlifters essentially purchased by the Qatar Olympic Committee for $1 million in 1999 in a controversial transaction that many said went against the spirit of the Olympics. But Salem ignored the criticism, winning four straight world championship gold medals from 1999 through 2004 before his Olympic disappearing act.

A father of two who claims hunting as his primary hobby, Salem clearly hasn't adopted Qatar as his home nation. On an information form supplied to weightlifting's international federation, he included his birth name as part of his full name, and listed as his place of residence Asenovgrad, a town in Bulgaria.

-- Amy Shipley


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