WRESTLING: Rulon Gardner is back on the mat, considering comeback in Greco-Roman wrestling In August 2004 Rulon Gardner left his ASICS wrestling shoes in the center of the wrestling mat in Ano Liossia Olympic Hall in Athens, Greece.
Photo Courtesy: rulongardneretc.com - Throughout his career, Rulon Gardner has been recognized as a superb athlete and role model.
In August 2004, after winning the second Olympic medal of his historic career in Greco-Roman wrestling, Rulon Gardner left his ASICS wrestling shoes in the center of the wrestling mat in Ano Liossia Olympic Hall in Athens, Greece. He walked away to the cheers of the crowd, retiring from the sport as an athlete. That is a lasting image many have of Rulon Gardner, the wrestler.
“I had committed eight years after my college career to international wrestling. Not knowing the outcome, I felt if I made one or two Olympic teams, my career would be fulfilled and then I would start pursuing my career as a teacher. I was willing to make that commitment. After winning the two Olympic medals, it was a natural transition to move on with my life,” said Gardner.
It is almost seven years later and Rulon’s life has changed considerably. He survived an airplane crash, worked as a public speaker and started a new health club business. He also allowed his health to decline as his weight blew up to over 470 pounds. Admittedly, Gardner struggled in finding the same level of success in daily life as he achieved as a focused Olympic athlete.
“There was not a set schedule. There is not one point where you are successful. In wrestling, you knew when you reached that level. You knew what you placed at the nationals, and what you placed at the World Team Trials. There was not the same accountability. I allowed myself to relax with my health and my weight became an issue. I did not have the structure and accountability in my life,” said Gardner.
It was during his induction ceremonies at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in June 2010 when Gardner realized that he had let things slip too far.
“I realized that I was in severe danger and going down a path where my life could end prematurely,” said Gardner. “It was a choice to listen to people around me. The people in the wrestling community emphasized positive things about changing my life. The wrestlers were honest enough to confront me and say my health was a serious issue. I decided I need to get control of my life again and ask for help to get back on track.”
Since last summer, Gardner has taken major steps to get his life back in order, not only concerning his weight but also in all aspects of his lifestyle. A big part of that journey included becoming a contestant on The Biggest Loser, a popular NBC weight loss show. Although Gardner is no longer on the show, he believes that he is heading in the right direction.
“It is something I learned in wrestling and in growing up. It’s about small steps. Once you get to the Olympic level, it doesn’t come down to who is going to win the match,