Rulon Gardner Profile
During the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Rulon Gardner cemented his spot in Olympics history by providing the world with an inspirational and unforgettable story that perfectly captures the spirit of the Games. Pulling off what is now remembered as the "Miracle on the Mat," Gardner did the unimaginable and upset the previous 13-year undefeated and three-time Olympic champion, Alexander Karelin, to capture the Greco-Roman wrestling gold medal.
Resisting Karelin`s attempts to wrestle him to the ground, Gardner relied on his 54-inch chest and "farm boy strength" to seize momentum of the match early and build a one-point lead entering overtime. With the match approaching its final seconds, Karelin had nothing left as he stepped back, conceding the medal to Gardner as the crowd ferociously chanted, "USA! USA!". ESPN would later memorialize the match as "one of the greatest upsets not only in wrestling history, but in Olympic history and sports history as well."
After his memorable Olympic moment, Gardner immediately stormed onto the sports culture scene and into the hearts of sports fans throughout the country. He was celebrated in the national spotlight on "Oprah," the "Today Show," and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." He also received the ESPY Award for U.S. Male Olympic Athlete of the Year (2001), the AAU James E. Sullivan Athlete of the Year Award (2000), and the Jesse Owens Award for Sportsmanship (2000).
Gardner would follow up his 2000 Olympic gold medal by earning bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics. This time, his medal victory was once again earned in dramatic fashion as it was only two years removed from a life-threatening snowmobile accident that cost Gardner one of his toes.
It was growing up on a dairy farm in Afton, Wyo., where Gardner became accustomed to defying the odds. When he was just in kindergarten, he was identified by his teachers as a special-needs student -- a characterization that plagued him throughout much of his elementary school years in the form of poor grades and bullying. But with strong family support and the resolve of an Olympic champion, those early struggles would prove to only fuel his motivation to succeed and capture not only a gold medal, but also a Bachelor`s degree from the University of Nebraska. In 2005, Gardner recounted these encouraging stories of perseverance in his autobiography, Never Stop Pushing.
In 2011, Gardner appeared on the 11th season of NBC`s hit reality television show, "Biggest Loser." Despite losing close to 200 pounds while training on the show, Gardner upstaged his accomplishment with an announcement of an Olympic return for the 2012 London Games. A comeback 11 years after his remarkable gold medal would have certainly been placed in the unlikely category for most athletes, but if there is anything the world has learned by now Rulon Gardner is no ordinary athlete.
Gardner tried to make a comeback for the 2012 Olympics in what is now the 264.5-pound class. He said he had gotten down to 280 pounds, but he did not weigh in for the Olympic trials. "I felt a little bit disappointed, but my body got to a point where it told me it's time you stop pushing yourself," Gardner said. "I could have hurt myself." With that statement he decided to quit right there, essentially ending his wrestling career.