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Weightlifter Shaves Head in Support of Tibet

Before winning a silver medal Sunday in the 94-kg weight class, Polish weightlifter, Szymon Kolecki, shaved his head in a gesture of solidarity with Tibetan monks, the Poland-based Tibet support group The Other Sports Foundation said in a release.

After the medal ceremony, the release said, Kolecki told online Polish sports magazine Sportfan: "This haircut is from this morning. I can't directly say why I did it. It's connected with certain things that the Olympic Charter forbids. But I will say that it's symbolic."

After clashes between Chinese government forces and protestors in Tibet in March, Kolecki told the Polish news portal Interia, according to the release, "Unless the Chinese regime becomes more moderate, I'll compete with my head shaved in a gesture of solidarity with the Tibetan monks."

Since the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Tibetans and Tibet support groups have been appealing to Olympic athletes to stand up for Tibet at the Beijing Games. A coalition of Tibet groups launched, a website with suggestions as to how athletes could demonstrate support for Tibet during the Games. Students for a Free Tibet also placed a full-page newspaper ad in the front section of the New York Times a week before the start of the Games.

"I am outraged by what's going on in Tibet," Kolecki said before the Olympics, according to the news release. "When I read about it, I can hardly believe I'll compete in a country that bloodily suppresses street protests and persecutes people who don't agree with the party. I can't believe the Chinese have launched an immense operation to block Lhasa." He continued, "This month in Beijing is a chance for the world's biggest audience to see how China persecutes the Tibetan people."

"Until August 17th, I'll be focused chiefly on my participation in the contest. But after that I'll keep my eyes wide open and if I see something worrying, I'll surely not look away."

Kolecki was born on October 12, 1981 in Olawa, a town in southwestern Poland and was a silver medalist at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. After injuries sidelined him for a period, he recuperated and returned to weightlifting in 2005. He is a five-time European Champion.

By Amy Shipley  |  August 20, 2008; 3:29 AM ET
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