The 400g difference between silver and bronze for Iraq

Abdul Wahid Aziz (c) photographed on the podium.
Abdul Wahid Aziz (c) photographed on the podium.

While winning an Olympic medal is a personal goal for thousands of athletes, for 24 nations it is a dream that has only ever come true once. Tokyo2020.org looks at the glorious moment and the impact it had on the lives of the athletes who achieved it.

The background

Born in Basra, Iraq in 1931, Abdul Wahid Aziz began his sporting journey at the age of 19. During his initial forays into the world of sport he focussed on football, basketball, volleyball and swimming. But it was the sport of weightlifting that would become his main focus, and his talent for it was seemingly prodigious.

Just a year after taking up the sport, Wahid Aziz was competing in the Iraq Weightlifting Championship, where he finished second in the 56kg category, lifting 7.5kg less than the eventual winner.

By 1957, Wahid Aziz had won his first major title, taking the gold medal at the 1957 Arab Championships in the 75kg category by a massive 27.5kg. Remarkably, his effort was so impressive that it would have also won the higher 82.5kg category.

The year 1957 proved to be a turning point for Wahid Aziz, as he won gold in the Asian Championships, before going on to win a bronze medal in the 1959 World Championships in Warsaw, Poland, just a year before the Rome 1960 Olympic Games.

History in the making

Wahid Aziz entered the Rome 1960 among the favourites, following his strong performances during the preceding year's World Championships.

Competing in his favoured 67.5kg category, the powerful Iraqi athlete lifted a combined total of 380kg over his three lifts, a mark that only one lifter managed to surpass - the Soviet Union three-time world champion Viktor Bushuev, who broke the world record with a combined total of 397.5kg.

But one competitor, Singapore's Tan Howe Liang, did manage to equal Wahid Aziz's total of 380kg.

Now the battle to decide the colour of the first ever Olympic medal for both athletes from Iraq and Singapore - who up to that point had also never stepped onto an Olympic podium - would be decided, not by how much weight they lifted, but by how much the athletes weighed.

Eventually, after much deliberation, Wahid Aziz was awarded the bronze, on account of being 400g heavier than Tan Howe Lang - the same weight as a tin of baked beans, or a can of soda.

It may have seemed cruel at the time, but Wahid Aziz had achieved something that no athlete from Iraq had ever achieved - and to this day no athlete has gone on to replicate.

What happened next?

Wahid Aziz missed out on a medal by the smallest of margins when he placed fourth at the 1961 World Championships in Vienna.

Wahid Aziz passed away in 1982, having never competed in another Olympic Games.

However, this remarkable athlete has not been forgotten.

In 2014, the Iraqi Olympic Committee announced the establishment of the Abdul Wahid Aziz International Weightlifting Championship, in honour of their greatest ever Olympian.