September 19, 2019

The transformation of Weightlifter Matthias Steiner | Legends Live On


The Olympics represent the most
important competition, an athlete
can train for. Matthias is very intelligent and uncompromising when
trying to reach his goals. He was one of the biggest
athletes I’ve ever seen. On top of everything,
he has diabetes! I knew it was my only chance
to be an Olympic champion. We were going at full speed
when everything fell apart. Apparently, I was so angry I could have annihilated
the entire world. What he said was, “I am going
to try and win a gold medal for Susann.” “Let me out!” I couldn’t wait
for them to raise it to 258kg. I was like,
“No way he’s gonna make that!” I was so shocked. If I’d left in a wheelchair, no-one would say, “Bravo,
Steiner, you fought hard.” They’d say,
“You’re an idiot!” I could only see his legs not
moving, and I thought either he’s dead
or he’s paralysed. A less stronger person might have been killed
by that weight. When I announced I was retiring
from weightlifting, it made headlines. I added that I planned
to lose over 40kg and wanted to weigh
less than 110. I’m Matthias Steiner. I’m in my thirties
and in great shape! I’m a fitness
and nutrition coach, a singer, and, quite simply,
a happy dad. I was gold medallist in the
super heavyweight category. And when that happens,
you can be called the strongest man in the world!
Which doesn’t last forever… Thanks! I’d say Matthias is
also a performer. He needs people. And perhaps they need him. He’s a performer. When you see him live,
you understand why. Matthias realised that he
really likes to be on stage. As a weightlifter
or as a host or… ..as a keynote speaker,
as a presenter. It’s important for me to talk about food so that
you’re aware of healthy eating
and eating consciously. People need to be informed.
You don’t need to know a lot, but you do need some basic
knowledge. We should have learned
all this at school. Actually, the real issue is
food and weight loss! And I’m going to show you
how easy it is to lose weight. All you need to do
push a button It’s a perfect surprise! In five minutes,
you lose 45 kilos. It’s easy! Weightlifting is a discipline
combining many things. You need maximum strength,
maximum speed, and to be in top form
down to the second. Weightlifting develops all the qualities of strength a human being can have. First of all,
physical strength. Then there’s strength
of character, endurance and other qualities necessary
for someone in any sport. The fastest man in the
world fascinates people. An entire stadium and several
million viewers watch a race that hardly
lasts 10 seconds, not more. And then, there’s the strongest
man in the world. A title that has fascinated
people for centuries since Antiquity. Aleksandr Kurlovich,
for example. Anatoly Pisarenko,
Gerd Bonk… They were heroes,
like football players. Look at all the flowers! It’s so pretty with the wheat! My childhood in the idyllic
town of Obersulz was wonderful. Which is one of the reasons why I returned to live there
with my wife and children. It’s idyllic and bucolic. He was a very lively child. He wouldn’t stop moving
and had lots of friends. He played football and tennis. He was always wandering off
somewhere. Matthias as a young child always admired his father for
his strength, for being a weightlifter. My dad practised it
for a long time, from 1957. Look! Look! It was your great passion.
60 years of trophies, right? – These come from Austria.
-OK. Austrian trophies. -And here…
-The international trophies. The international trophies. Australia, Canada
And many other countries. We fought hard,
over and over again. One day he decided, since his dad was
an amateur weightlifter, he thought it might interest
him, and he wanted to try it. He tried it with
a broomstick in the garden. Then he begged his dad,
“Please build me a barbell!” Which he did,
and that’s how it started. Come on, let’s get the barbell. It should be in here,
if I’m not mistaken. This is where it began. -A baby barbell!
-A baby barbell! -And you made it.
-Yes. -Remember?
-Of course I remember. That was some intense training. It broke. Now let’s go to the place
where it all started. Yes. First the green one. Everything is handmade here,
right? -Yes, of course.
-Careful not to hurt yourself. I’d always hoped it wouldn’t
rain so I could train outside, and this is the only flat part. I’d stand here and wait
till my dad came to see me. And when he came,
he’d always just pass through. He’d never look at me
because he’d tell himself
I was doing it wrong. And that’s how… You never believed I’d make it. Mom would say, “Please, go see
our son!” And you’d say, “No. That’s not
how he’s going to succeed. “He should do something else.
Let him try.” You were a very talented
football player. I was sitting here
and you came to me and said, “Dad,
I don’t want to play football. “I want to be a weightlifter
like you.” And I thought, “That’s nuts!” I never would’ve believed you
could become Olympic champion! That was so far from us! Olympic champion? Never on your life! I think that was also a reason
why he became a weightlifter because when your own
father says, “No, you’re not talented,” you’re like, “OK, I am gonna
prove you I am talented.” But what I liked best
about weightlifting was that, after a few weeks or
months of training, you could already lift
five more kilos. At that age,
the body develops quickly.
That was an achievement. Then he learnt he has
diabetes, on top of everything. This person has to not only
compete the competitors, he has also has to fight
against a sickness that is real, real serious. It was a 180-degree turn. I had no idea what to do. At age 18, I was healthy
like you. Then I suddenly felt sick. I was drinking a lot, up to
eight litres of water a day
and had a fever. I went to the hospital and
they measured my blood sugar. It was too high. How could that
be? There’s this organ – the pancreas. Nothing spectacular about it,
but it produces insulin, which you need
when you drink Coke, you eat a kebab, or whatever. This creates the insulin
that processes sugar. Of course, I had to adapt
Matthias’s training to the disease. There were often problems that
made any training impossible because his glucose level
would stop him. My glucose was either too high
or too low and I had to postpone training. I’d be furious. I’d throw
things against the wall. I couldn’t do anything
about it! Anyway, what was the solution? Certainly not feeling sorry for
myself, saying, “Woe is me.” There are billions of people
with problems. To what extent does this hold
you back in life? Hold me back? Not at all! But it sometimes makes me mad. Like this morning at 9am,
my glucose had gone down, so I had to drink orange juice
to bring it back up. Because if my glucose is too
low, I’ll speak gibberish and people think I’m drunk! Are you participating in this
event for free? Diabetes is so important for
me, because I’m type 1 diabetes. It’s important to get
the message out there! And I do so gladly. He wants to tell people with
diabetes, “Accept your disease.” You have a wonderful future
ahead of you! That’s why he’s on stage – to show that life can be
beautiful if you just believe in it
and if you try. Very quickly, Matthias set his
sights on the Olympics. At the time, he was still
participating for Austria in
Athens. ATHENS 2004 We were very proud of him. The adrenaline and euphoria… It was simply…
You had to experience it! And, for Austria, seventh place
was already sensational for a weightlifter. The Austrian Weightlifting
Federation was amateur. I couldn’t see any
perspective for me. I finished 7th, which was fine. But I really felt
I still had potential, as long as I could concentrate
more on weightlifting. AT THE TIME, GERMANY IS ONE OF THE WORLD’S TOP WEIGHTLIFTING
NATIONS. IN 2005, MATTHIAS STEINER APPLIES FOR GERMAN CITIZENSHIP. I took an interest in Matthias when I was told he was applying
for German citizenship and join our federation.
That’s how it all started. I was young, handsome, thin,
brawny. Everything was going well, and apparently there was
a groupie watching me on TV. A sports fan. Susann saw him on television. And she tried to contact him. And finally, the whole thing turned into a real romantic
love affair. She had no money
and was still a student. I was more or less stateless, I was no longer Austrian
and not yet German, and I didn’t have a real salary
yet, either. We just had enough to live. But that wasn’t important,
as long as we were together. For us, it was obvious. He had to be in the super
heavyweight category, over 105kg. It wasn’t always fun. Losing weight was more pleasant
than putting on weight at this
point. We then trained him
to build his muscle mass. In three years,
he put on 20kg. FRANK AND MATTHIAS ARE ON
THEIR WAY TO BEIJING OLYMPICS WHICH WOULD BE HELD A YEAR
LATER When I think about it today, We were full-on preparing
for the Olympics. We were going at full speed
when everything fell apart. It was just an average summer
day. And the telephone rang. “Hello, it’s the police. Don’t worry,
it’s not that serious, but your wife
was in an accident and is at the hospital.” I get to the hospital and they say they did
everything they could. The doctor solemnly said,
“Your wife is dead.” I didn’t know what to do
with my anger. It was impossible!
Impossible! I stopped understanding
anything. Susi’s death left
a gaping hole. I stopped training for three
weeks. I told him, “Matthias, if you want to go through with
Operation Gold Medal you must come to training
tomorrow. But if you don’t, I’ll also
accept it.” When I arrived at the gym
at 9am, Matthias was already there. I realised that the more
I trained, the less depressed I was. Through my effort,
I repressed the rest. I concentrated on my goal.
I was on the rise. Apparently, I was so angry I could have annihilated
the world. What he said was, “I am going
to try and win a gold medal for Susann.” BEIJING 2008 Throughout all our prep for the
Olympics, our opponents were the Russian Chigishev
and the Latvian Scerbatihs. Both excellent weightlifters. I never fear
anyone in a sports context. When I arrived at the Olympics, I knew there were a few tough
opponents I’d have to fight against. Matthias was among them. You have two different ways
of weightlifting. One is called the snatch,
without touching anything of your body. With straight arms, you have
to dive under the weight and bring it up. You have three
tries in the snatch. And then you have another three
tries in the clean and jerk, which means you put up
the weight, put it on your shoulders,
and then from that you have to bring it up with straight arms. And you take the best snatch and the best clean and jerk and
you add those two together, and who has the biggest weight is the gold medallist in the
end. I chose 198kg for my 1st
attempt. It was 3kg lower than
my personal record at the time. We’d never started
that high in a competition. 203kg for a second attempt. This was the first time
Matthias tried it. Then we had to choose. Do we pick 206 or 207? In the end, we chose 207. Which was a mistake. Failing the last attempt is not
what you want to do. He was not even in the medal
ranks after the snatch. Matthias was completely
depressed. The others were very good
snatchers, especially Chigishev
and Scerbatihs. One of them snatched 210,
the other 206. That allowed me
to pick out the competitors
and mark the occasion so the clean and jerk would be a bit easier. If I compare snatch
and clean and jerk, his forte was definitely
clean and jerk because of the incredible
strength in his legs, which is better
for clean and jerk. I was still a little
upset by the snatch. And I had to go. I had to make
this attempt. It was terrible. I was totally astonished
about the fact. He’s not gonna make it, he’s not gonna get through
the competition. Evgeny Chigishev. COMMENTARY BY GUNTHER SCHROTH 247kg. He’s being a true Russian, lifting them
like they were nothing. The Russian Chigishev
is so far ahead, no-one can catch up to him. He was stuck in his regrets
and wasting a lot of time. So, I raised my voice and said,
“Get out there!” “Are you crazy? Tell yourself, with this
attempt we get a medal.” I just heard medal and thought, “Even if it isn’t gold, winning
a medal is already a gift. I want to go home with a
medal. I must lift 248.” If Steiner lifts this, it’ll be a total of 451,
which will be a medal. Steiner is lifting 248kg. Go
on, Matthias, get that medal! Go on, get that medal!
And he’s got a medal. It isn’t over yet,
keep going, Matthias. I did it! Except we had no idea
what would happen next. Chigishev then lifted 250. An incredible feat by
the Russian Evgeny Chigishev. But there are still two other
men in competition. Matthias Steiner
and Viktors Scerbatihs. Scerbatihs did not
make his 254kg attempt or 257. That was exactly
the situation we wanted. We’d made five attempts, we
had the silver medal for sure, no-one else was in competition, and we still had one more
chance to win gold. What is Matthias Steiner doing? My God, he’s crazy! He’s nuts!
258 kilos! That would be gold! “Let me out!” I couldn’t wait
for them to raise it to 258kg. And then he goes there, shows
not a poker face any more, but he shows the face
of a predator. It was as if, for years, my body had been bound in
chains that were tighter and tighter. Matthias Steiner, the man with
an incredible personal story. There he is, upright,
focused on only one thing,
that enormous weight. And, right then,
all the chains burst. My, that’s heavy. That’s heavy! Matthias Steiner,
lift that bar. It’s the chance of a lifetime,
lift it, lift it! It could be gold,
it could be the gold medal! It’s been validated! It’s gold for Matthias Steiner, gold for Matthias Steiner! And he didn’t do it for
Austria, he didn’t do it for Germany,
he did it for Susann. I did it. I was a free man right there
and then. The happiest man in the world,
especially then. It was good. I nearly died of happiness. That’s what I’d always wanted
to do in my career as a coach. Train the strongest
man in the world. Of course, things resurface in
those moments. She was supposed
to come and encourage me, but that was no longer
possible. But I had her with me,
and everything was fine. I think the Olympic victory and
medals ceremony, for Matthias,
signalled the end of a process, and perhaps also the process of mourning. He could say, “Susi, look.
I won for both of us
at the Olympics.” After his gold medal win,
nothing was planned. There was this huge man
who showed the whole world his emotion, and at that time I
kind of fell in love with him, even though I thought
I would never meet him. I met Inge
shortly after the Olympics. We liked each other so much, we decided, “OK,
let’s give it a shot.” AFTER LONDON 2012, MATTHIAS DECIDES TO RETIRE
FROM WEIGHTLIFTING When you quit weightlifting, there’s nobody there
telling you, “Now you do this”
or, “You do that.” But media was still interested
in Matthias and he grew into becoming
a media person, so he started losing weight and all the people wanted
to know how he did it, because they said,
“45kg. I want to lose 5kg. How did you do that?” So he said to me, “You’re a journalist. Can’t you
write a book about it? I said, “OK, I’ll try!” And we wrote this
book entirely by ourselves. The Steiner Principle. It became a bestseller. A big success in Germany. Everyone wanted to know how
Steiner lost all his weight! While I chop the onions, you can prepare the meat. When I wanted to get thin, I realised I’d never thought
much about what I was eating. Because it’s easy to lose
weight if you eat nothing. But I also wanted it to be good and didn’t want to deprive
myself! Knowing what I’m doing, what I
like eating, and what makes me feel good. And that’s what we wanted to pass on
with The Steiner Principle. Cook your own meals
and enjoy doing it! It’s ready! This is the principle
the whole family lives after. Our kids, they run around all
day long, we try to tell people,
Don’t use the car. Ride the bike or go by foot. Curiosity
is a wonderful thing in life. I had it in sport. But I’m no longer an athlete
and can’t be at age 35. It’s no longer
possible in weightlifting. I’ve never wanted
to be a coach. I’m trying other routes now. He has two
things that he loved doing – weightlifting and music,
music being even before he started his weightlifting
career. A producer would call him up and say, “Would you like to
try some songs?” and he said, “Yes, of course!” I’m currently
preparing my 2nd album. I’m very ambitious about it,
and I like it a lot. I like trying things. And, if it doesn’t work out,
regardless of the level, you have to try other things. Matthias always tries out
things, even though he might lose, but he says, “If you don’t
try you’ll never win!” I’ve always tried to
be honest and fair, and I want to continue passing
that on.

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