BEIJING (Reuters) - German weightlifter Matthias Steiner kissed a picture of his late wife Susann on the gold medal podium on Tuesday, choking back tears over the promise he made to her that he would keep their Olympic dream.
“She is always with me, in the hours before the competition, she’s there,” said the super-heavyweight winner, who made the pledge to Susann at her bedside in hospital while she lay dying after a car crash in July 2007.
“I’m not the superstitious type, don’t believe in higher powers, but I hope she saw me. I wish,” said the 25-year-old.
Steiner, who won with a total of 461kg, claimed the title of strongest man in the world with a last-ditch lunge for gold, lifting just one kilo more than Russia’s Evgeny Chigishev.
He snatched 203kg, a weight far below his closest competitors, but raised his weights dramatically for his final lift in the clean and jerk and hoisted up 258kg.
“I managed to lift it because I had this strong, innermost urge,” said Steiner.
“I like to tickle people’s nerves and I just risked everything. I didn’t want a boring competition.”
While Chigishev took the silver, Latvian politician and weightlifter Viktors Scerbatihs won the bronze.
Steiner was born in Austria but moved to Germany because Susann lived there.
She first saw him in a weightlifting contest on television and was instantly smitten. She emailed him, they met up and fell in love at first sight.
Dissatisfied with Austrian weightlifting and newly attracted to Germany, Steiner applied for German citizenship. He married Susann in December 2005.
(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer)