Steiner forges new life after highs and lows of Olympic career

Olympic Games Beijing 2008 weightlifting champion Matthias Steiner has become a singer, author and motivational speaker after approaching his post-Olympic career with the same dedication that saw him overcome tragedy en route to the gold medal in China. 

Steiner is the subject of the Olympic Channel’s fourth episode in the new season of “Legends Live On”, which also features athlete Hicham El Guerrouj, who won the 1,500/5,000m double at the Olympic Games 2004; six-time fencing champion Valentina Vezzali; and Uschi Disl, winner of nine biathlon medals over five Olympic Winter Games.

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Steiner grew up in Austria, where he was inspired by his weightlifter father who thought that his son was “nuts” when he revealed he was going to follow in his sporting footsteps. At 18 he was diagnosed with diabetes, but he refused to allow it to hold him back and finished seventh at Athens 2004.

However, the Austrian Weightlifting Federation was amateur, and Steiner felt he would be better able to fulfil his potential in Germany, which was one of the top weightlifting nations. He applied for German citizenship, which coincided with him falling in love with and marrying Susann. But tragedy struck in July 2007 when Susann died in a car crash, after which Steiner did not train for three weeks. On his return he vowed to win a gold medal for her at Beijing 2008.

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Competing in the super heavyweight category, it came down to a fight for gold between Steiner and Russian Evgeny Chigishev, with the German finding superhuman strength to successfully lift 258 kilos in the clean and jerk. He said that the chains that had bound him had burst, adding: “I was a free man right there and then”. He also competed at London 2012, where he escaped serious injury after dropping a 196kg barbell on his neck. He retired soon after the Games.

Steiner subsequently vowed to lose 45kg and documented his weight loss journey in the book “The Steiner Principle”, which he wrote with his journalist wife Inge. It became a bestseller in Germany, where Steiner also works as a fitness and nutrition coach and a motivational speaker, raising awareness about diabetes. On top of this, he has released two albums, adding pop star to his list of achievements.