It’s hard to describe. You think you’ve got your life figured out, I was completely focused on the Olympic Games, my wife was studying, she had her career in front of her. Then, one day it’s just over. I had to make a decision, whether to just stop or to carry on weightlifting. I realized that even if I stopped, what had happened was not going to change. It’s going to stay with me for the rest of my life. On the day of the competition a German triathlete won an unexpected gold. I think he overtook an Australian just before the finish line to become Olympic Champion. And I took that as a sign that today was going to be a good day, so I folded down my laptop and left. I just checked that I had everything with me… tape…shoes… A lot of other guys listen to music, but I intentionally don’t. I leave it all at home, because I want to feel the atmosphere, if I listen to music I’ll be distracted. In the arena there is a certain hum of excitement that comes from the crowd The group before me was still competing, I could hear the weights drop. You go to the weigh in and all the athletes sit around staring at each other. That’s where weightlifting is a bit quirky, it’s not like we are all close friends, but you sit down and there are loads of these big bears who are looking at you And I always thought to myself when I looked at them, they can look as hard or as cool as they want and they do looked very pumped, but I always had the feeling; you’re nervous inside too! The competition was really good. I started with 198kg, 3kg under my personal best. On my second attempt I lifted 203kg, which was a bit better. Then we decided to go for 207kg to get up into the medal ranks. I was so convinced that I could lift it, and all of a sudden I couldn’t. It threw me off my game. I was out of it after that discipline. It became clear after the Russian jerked 210 and the Latvian 207, that there were at least 3 athletes before me and I was at least 4th after the snatch And then it started to go really quick. In my head I was still in the snatch mindset, which can be fatal. In the warm up area I attempted 235kg. I put it on my chest but my hand slipped, so I had to drop the weights My coach then came around and said ‘Matthias you have to go out to lift 246kg’. I said what do you mean? I just tried 235kg and couldn’t do it. I don’t have enough air left for it! He said ‘it doesn’t matter, there’s no time. You have to go out, it’s your turn’. It happened so quickly. It was beat after beat. I approached the 246kg, put it on my chest, I pushed it up and it fell behind me. It was the first try in the clean and jerk and that is always my strong suit. I can always do it on the first attempt, it’s never a problem. I don’t really have to think about it. With the snatch I have to focus and concentrate, with the clean and jerk it’s never an issue. But now I couldn’t do it. It was already, for me, pretty bad. But for my coach it was even worse, he had to decide in 30 seconds what we were going to do. Are we going to repeat or do we put more weight on? Putting more weight on would obviously increase the pressure. He knew I was prepped for those weights, but he didn’t know what was going with me at that moment. Can he not handle the pressure? What’s wrong with Steiner? And you could feel that he was really nervous, but he tried to hide it. He said ‘you realize that if you make this you have a medal?’ Even if you’d got it with your first lift you’d have a medal. I hadn’t even realized. I thought with the first try I wouldn’t have got a medal. But he said ‘of course’. These words, to have a medal with this try, made me think now I have to give everything to the next lift. No matter what happens afterwards. This is one I have to do. I attempted the 248 and although it wasn’t ideal it was still valid. And I realized I had a medal A weight was lifted from my shoulders. I was 3rd for sure. I’d have bronze at the Olympic games no matter what. Brilliant! Then the Russian went for 250 and he was gone. He pulled 210 in the snatch and 250 in the clean and jerk so 460 in the competition. I was at 451, and that’s quite a gap And then it was my turn. The competition was in my hands. I had a chance to become Olympic champion. That was the great thing, I didn’t have to wait for everone else to fail their attempts. I could just go out on stage and finish it myself. I felt I could have lifted anything that day, whether I actually could have is a different matter! I just wanted to win gold. I had only one try. I thought of the words of my coach, Frank Mantek. When I first came to Germany he told me the very best athletes are distinguished by one thing. They compete a lot of times… but they only have a few where they have one try which will decide everything and that can change their life. In life you only have two or three, maybe only one chance, and you have to grab it. That’s the difference between a very good athlete, and a champion. That’s what went through my head, this is your only chance, the only chance is now. That thought was enough. Especially when I pushed the weights up. All my body parts gave up apart from my arms. They stayed up. It was valid and my arms controlled the weights. I was Olympic Champion. Right after I had lifted the golden weights, and I knew it was valid It felt like a thousand chains had burst off me. Only then did I realize the kind of pressure I’d been under. I hadn’t realized… I thought this was just how I feel, that everything was okay. Only after did I realize that I’d been under massive pressure I even saw black in front of my eyes as I got up, although my legs were strong… It quickly went and everything came back again. Every emotion and feeling I can still feel them. I still know how it felt. Especially the feeling when I had the weights above my head. I knew even before the judges that it was good, that I was in control. And that I was the lucky one to win it. Then everything just burst out, everything I’d been suppressing. But in the end there was just a feeling of thankfulness that I was given the chance to become Olympic Champion. That was how I felt at that point, but also that I was standing up there alone. And that was not so nice, because I wanted my wife to be there. I just wanted to show the world that I didn’t want to be standing up there alone.