An emotional Matthias Steiner of Germany won the men’s +105kg weightlifting gold medal at the Beijing Olympics yesterday, 13 months after the tragic death of his wife.
Steiner lifted 203kg in the snatch and a last-gasp 258kg in the clean and jerk for a total effort of 461kg, edging out Russia’s Evgeny Chigishev by one kilogram. World champion Viktors Scerbatihs of Latvia won the bronze medal with 448kg.
It was Germany’s first gold medal at the weightlifting competition, which ended yesterday with hosts China running away with eight of the 15 golds at stake.
The German, who turns 26 on Monday, had come to these Games on a mission to win the title for his wife Susann, who died in a car accident in July last year.
He roared in delight and shed happy tears while celebrating on the stage.
Steiner held up a photo of his late wife as he stood on the winner’s podium. Susann had planned to accompany him to Beijing and had even started a savings account to pay for the flights.
Steiner was born in Austria and represented his country of birth at the Athens Olympics four years ago, placing seventh in the under 105kg category, but had a falling out with Austria’s weightlifting federation afterwards.
He applied for German citizenship in 2005 and got married, but his career stalled as he could not compete without a passport.
He finally obtained his new passport in January, going to his wife’s grave to tell her the good news, saying at the time: “She should be the first to know.”
He then bulked up to compete in the super-heavyweight class. The German team said he used the personal tragedy to motivate himself to win the gold medal.
Things appeared to have gone badly however after he missed his last snatch attempt, putting him in interim fourth place, 7kg less than the eventual silver medalist Chigishev who had hoisted 210kg.
It seemed to get worse as the German again failed to convert his first clean and jerk effort of 246kg.
Chigishev piled on the pressure with a final clean and jerk lift of 250kg, which meant the German had to lift 10kg more than his only converted clean and jerk effort of 248kg.
But in the end he delivered.
His winning total of 461kg, the weight of a good-sized adult cow, was 11kg short of the world record set in the Sydney 2000 Olympics by Hossein Rezazadeh, who therefore on paper remains the strongest man on the planet.