I felt I could have lifted anything that day- Matthias Steiner
Since I was 8 years old, I have been obsessed to watch the Olympics with my Amma and Thaththa. I loved every moment of the game even without knowing the names of some of the sports. When it comes to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the only thing that comes to my mind is this guy! MATTHIAS STEINER. Steiner is an Olympic gold medal-winning weightlifter who represented Germany and Austria in the 105+ kg category. This category is the heaviest at the Games. Therefore, the winner is considered to be the strongest man in the world. But all the physical strength Steiner possessed was no match for the mental strength he showed on his way to winning the gold. This is the story of the most loved, dedicated, and gentle giant on earth.
Young Matthias started weightlifting in 1995 when he was only 13 years old. Soon he became a key player in the Austrian weightlifting circuit and participated in major competitions like the World Junior Weightlifting Games under the guidance of his father who was also a weightlifting champion.
In 2004, a German girl called Susann had watched Steiner participating in weightlifting contests on TV. She’d fallen in love with him the moment she first saw him. She kept asking the Television commentators for his email address until they gave it to her. She contacted Steiner, and he agreed to meet her in Lower Austria. The first time they met, Steiner felt like part of him walked out of his body and wrapped itself around this charming girl. After a few months, they tied the knot and moved to Germany.
Everything was going well until 16 July 2007. Steiner was working for his Olympic dream and got the worst news of his life. This super-heavyweight winner pledged to his wife he would win a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics at her bedside in hospital while she lay dying after a car crash. Tragically, Steiner’s wife Susann was never to see him compete in Beijing. She sadly passed away the summer before the Games.
Life of Matthias was not going to be easy from there on, everything changed, but he stuck with it. The only thing that he wants to fulfill is his promise to Susann: to become an Olympic gold medalist in Beijing.
In an emotional final at the 2008 Olympics, Steiner experienced the greatest success of his career. In the snatch section, he could lift just 203kg which was well below his closest competitors, and placed Fourth. His strength was clean and jerk, though. After the first attempt at the clean and jerk, everyone thought his chance of gold was slipping away. Matthias was able to climb up to third place after his second attempt but still not enough to claim gold. The Russian weightlifter had finished with a total of 460kg, lifting an incredible 250kg in his final attempt. Steiner had one final chance at glory. The final weight meant lifting a huge difference of 10kg than the Russian weightlifter in order to claim gold.
Steiner knew what he had to do. He might have missed his first 2 attempts. Now the stakes were ridiculously high for his final attempt. He walked into the mat a bit nervously and closed his eyes for a moment. His mind was full of thoughts but one thing was clear. He needed to turn his tragic loss into inspiration and fulfill his GOLDEN PROMISE to Susann. He opened his eyes and lifted the barbell. He made a clean jerk of 258 kg and a total lift of 461 kg and claimed GOLD. Tears of joy cries of ecstasy soon followed. It’s not just the barbell that he lifted, all the baggage of pain, loneliness, anxiety, loss of will, and loss of hope that he’s been carrying since Susann’s tragic loss. Matthias lifted all of this in one fell swoop.
While choking back tears, he stood on the medalists’ podium with a photo of his late wife, who would otherwise have accompanied him to the Games. Kissing the picture, Steiner accepted his Olympic gold medal, saying,
I managed to lift it because I had this strong, innermost urge. I’m not the superstitious type, I don’t believe in higher powers, but I hope she saw me. I wish.