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Turkey’s 2017 Fair Play Grand Prize awarded to Valerios Leonidis

Turkey’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) announced the 2017 winners of the Fair Play Awards last Monday, awarding Greek former weightlifter Valerios Leonidis the grand prize.

The winners were announced at a news conference held in Ataköy Olympic House, hosted by NOC Fair Play Commission President Erdoğan Arıpınar and other members of the commission.

The three categories of awards distributed were “Fair Play Conduct,” “Fair Play Career” and “Community Fair Play.”

For the Fair Play Conduct category, the grand prize was awarded to Leonidis, a Greek former weightlifter and current weightlifting trainer. In November 2017, he attended the funeral of his longtime rival, Turkish world record holder Naim Süleymanoğlu.

Among the dozens of fellow athletes and dignitaries at Süleymanoğlu’s funeral, Leonidis stood out as he quietly approached the late weightlifter’s coffin draped with a Turkish flag and kissed it. Leonidis told reporters at the funeral that he was “devastated” to learn about the death of his Turkish “friend,” as the two had pushed each other to greatness in the sport.

“I never forget [the 1996 Olympics in] Atlanta. He took gold and I took the silver [medal]. Before the medal ceremony, I told him ‘you are the best’ and he responded, ‘We are the best,'” Leonidis said.

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