Gardner (right) at the 2004 Olympics
August 16, 1971 |
Afton, Wyoming, U.S.
|Height||1.87 m (6 ft 1 1⁄2 in)|
|Coached by||Anatoly Petrosyan
Rulon E. Gardner (born August 16, 1971) is a retired American Greco-Roman wrestler. He competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and won the gold medal in 2000, defeating Aleksandr Karelin in the final. Karelin was previously unbeaten for 13 years in international competition. This was also the first Olympic gold medal won by an American Greco-Roman wrestler in a full international field. Gardner won a bronze medal at the 2004 Games.
Gardner was born in Afton, Wyoming. He is the son of Reed and Virginia Gardner and the last of nine children. His second great grandfather was Archibald Gardner, who was one of the early settlers of Star Valley, Wyoming. He attributes his strength to the physical labor that he performed growing up and working on the family's dairy farm.
In 2005, Gardner published his autobiography (co-written by Bob Schaller), Never Stop Pushing: My Life from a Wyoming Farm to the Olympic Medals Stand, in which he describes his Greco-Roman wrestling career, his academic struggles (as someone who suffers from a learning disability) and an account of his near-death experience when stranded after a snowmobile accident.
He is currently making his profession as a motivational speaker, often appearing as a keynote presenter and event host. He has appeared at corporate events, celebrity golf tournaments, trade shows, and conventions. He also has licensing deals, as well as print and television endorsements.
After the Athens Olympics, Gardner gained 210 pounds, culminating in a total body weight of 474 pounds. In January 2011, he was announced as a contestant on season 11 of the American reality television show, The Biggest Loser. After 16 weeks on the show, Gardner had lost 173 pounds. Gardner shocked the trainers, staff, and contestants on the April 26 episode by announcing he would be leaving the show "for personal reasons", and left the show without a final weigh-in. He did not appear on the final episode of the season, except in the background of scenes of other contestants.
In 2002, Gardner went snowmobiling with some friends in the mountains surrounding Star Valley, Wyoming. At one point, he became separated from the group. During his efforts to regain his composure and regroup, he fell into the freezing Salt River with his snowmobile. Unable to move any farther, Gardner decided to build a shelter and wait for a rescue team. He remained stranded for the next 18 hours. After several hours in his makeshift shelter, he stopped shivering, which led him to believe that he was dying. When he was eventually rescued, he was experiencing hypothermia and severe frostbite. Due to the physical damage, a saw had to be used to remove his boots. The harrowing experience cost Gardner the middle toe on his right foot, which he keeps in formaldehyde in a jar in his refrigerator, to remind him of his mortality. He told his story on a first-season episode of I Survived....
On February 24, 2007, Gardner and two other men survived a crash when a light aircraft he was traveling in crashed into Lake Powell, Utah. The men swam an hour in 44 °F (7 °C) water to reach shore, and then spent the night without shelter. None of the three sustained life-threatening injuries.
Gardner attended Star Valley High School in Afton, Wyoming, and was a three-sport letter winner and standout in football, wrestling, and track and field. He was an All-State selection in both football and wrestling, and was also the 1989 wrestling state heavyweight champion. In track and field, as a senior, he took second at the state finals in the shot put.
Gardner attended junior college at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) in Rexburg, Idaho and as a sophomore won the NJCAA national heavyweight wrestling championship. He then earned a football scholarship to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While at Nebraska, Gardner finished fourth in the 275 lb. weight class at the 1993 NCAA Championships, earning All-American honors. He graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with a bachelor's degree in physical education. He attended both Ricks and Nebraska on wrestling scholarships.
Gardner is known for his defeat of Aleksandr Karelin at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Karelin had been undefeated for 13 years, and had not given up a point in six years, prior to his loss in the gold medal match to Gardner.
In 2001, Gardner added a world championship to his list of accomplishments with a victory in the finals over Mihaly Deak-Bardos of Hungary. His win made him the only American to ever win both a World and Olympic title in Greco-Roman wrestling.
After the 2000 Olympics he suffered a series of injuries from both a snowmobiling and motorcycle accident. These injuries included an amputated toe and a dislocated wrist, but he still went on to win the U.S. Olympic trials for his weight class and then to compete in the 2004 Summer Olympics. He was not able to repeat his 2000 performance, coming away with the Bronze medal, and after his match, he placed his shoes in the middle of the mat as a symbol of retirement from competitive wrestling.
Gardner attempted a comeback for the 2012 Olympics but was unable to make the 264.5 pound weight limit for the U.S. Olympic Trials and therefore ineligible to compete for a position on the Olympic team.
On December 31, 2004, Gardner fought Hidehiko Yoshida in a judo vs wrestling mixed martial arts (MMA) bout for the Pride Fighting Championships at an event named PRIDE Shockwave 2004. Yoshida, in addition to being an Olympic gold medalist in judo, was a highly successful MMA fighter. Gardner, trained by Bas Rutten, won the bout via unanimous decision. 
|December 31, 2004||Win||1–0||Hidehiko Yoshida||PRIDE Shockwave 2004||Decision (Unanimous)||Round 3, 5:00|
Aside from his Olympic medals, his achievements include:
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