Changing China

Giant on the move

Germans grieve with lovelorn lifter

August 20, 2008

Steiner wipes away a tearWhen super-heavyweight lifter Matthias Steiner won his first Olympic gold medal, he kissed a photo of the woman he had buried in her wedding dress last year.

The hulking German’s tale of love and loss has moved millions of viewers around the world, and the image of Steiner holding up the photo of Susann, who died after a car crash, was splashed across German websites on Wednesday.

“The first thing I’ll do when I get home is visit her grave,” German media quoted the 25-year-old Steiner as saying. “I’m never able to stay around her grave for long because it hurts so much. Susann was and is my great love.”

Their love story started with a remote control. Susann was flicking through TV channels and happened upon a weightlifting contest. She saw Steiner, a grizzly bear of a man, and was  instantly smitten.

She e-mailed him, he agreed to meet her, and she took the train to Austria where he was living at the time. They fell in love at first sight.

Soon, Steiner applied for German citizenship and the two started saving up so Susann could accompany him to Beijing. But a car crash just before Susann’s 23rd birthday shattered those plans. She was rushed to hospital and underwent surgery, but never regained consciousness. Steiner pledged at her bedside that he would make their Olympic dream come true.

“His gold has touched our hearts,” sighed tabloid Bild on its website. Other media called him the “sad colossus” after Steiner, whose German citizenship only came through at the beginning of this year, claimed the unofficial title of strongest man in the world.


Oh. How utterly romantic and bitter-sweet.

Reading this made me cry.

Congratulations on your medal. Your wife would be proud.

Posted by gina | Report as abusive

As an avid Olympic-viewer (usually of the more “glamourous” sports (swimming, gymnastics, volleyball)), and also as a long-time-married woman, I am completely touched by this story.

It is so utterly heartbreaking that Susann Steiner could not live to see her husband fulfill their Olympic dream of him doing well in this competition, much less the dream of spending the rest of their lives together and perhaps raising a family together. I do indeed hope that her spirit was somehow able to have been watching him. To me Matthias Steiner’s phenomenal victory lends credibility to the idea that Susann was indeed with him in spirit, supporting him on this all-important day.

This story brought tears to my eyes.

Posted by Cerridwen | Report as abusive

Heartbreaking. I lived in Germany four years. Wonderful country … wonderful people. Congratulations Matthias! Even USA salutes you. Your beautiful Susann was with you during this most wonderful moment and always remember – her passing is only a temporary separation. You will be reunited again.

Posted by Lindi Barnes Conrad | Report as abusive

My heart goes out for this gentle giant…..I too lost the love of my life over a month ago. His win is a small relief from the grief we share.

Posted by Anders | Report as abusive

Thank you for your kind comments – I will try to pass them on to Matthias.

Posted by Sophie Hardach | Report as abusive

What a story! This is what the late Jim McKay used to call the “Human Drama of Athletic Competition!” Matthias, may your sorrow be lifted in the thought that your wife’s spirit was definetely with you in your time of triumph!

Posted by MM in Las Vegas | Report as abusive

Wow!!! My eyes are wet…

Posted by Antriksh Singh | Report as abusive

I came across this story completely by accident. I simply wanted to see the weightlifting finals and downloaded them to watch. After knowing all the back-story I’m really disappointed that the rest of America has missed this fantastic story. Our prime-time coverage only shows events with Americans in them, even though I’m sure all of America would have loved to see this. What a fantastic man!


This was by far the best olympic moment of the Beijing olympics. Being from the US – our media would love to tout the Redeem team and Michael Phelps, but Mattias Steiner provided the most touching and memorable moment.


When I saw this Giant of a man on t.v. clutching his Gold Medal, flowers and the picture of his recentley deceased wife, I cried my eyes out.

What a man, what an inspiration. I’ll never forget Matthius Steiner for as long as I live. A true Olympian in every sense of the word.

Posted by Richard Walden | Report as abusive

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see