Gardner (center) in 2002
|Born||August 16, 1971 (age 44)
Afton, Wyoming, U.S.
Rulon E. Gardner (born August 16, 1971) is an American Olympian who competed in the 2000 Olympic games, winning the gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling upon defeating Russian Aleksandr Karelin, who was undefeated in 13 years of international competition. It was also the first Olympic gold medal won by an American Greco-Roman wrestler in a full international field.
Gardner was also a contestant on the 11th season of the Biggest Loser, which aired in 2011.
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.
- High school
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.
- College years
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.
2000 Summer Olympics
Gardner is well known for his defeat of Aleksandr Karelin in the 2000 Summer Olympics. Gardner was trained by Hunter Gibson and Aaron Spencer. 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.
Mixed martial arts
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 success MMA fighter. Gardner, trained by Bas Rutten, won the bout via unanimous decision. 
- Mixed martial arts record
|December 31, 2004||Win||1-0||Hidehiko Yoshida||PRIDE Shockwave 2004||Decision (Unanimous)||Round 3, 5:00|
Honors and awards
Aside from his Olympic medals, his achievements include:
- U.S. Champion in 1995, 1997, and 2001
- James E. Sullivan Award for amateur athlete of the year, 2001
- Gold medal, World Wrestling Championships, 2001
- Jesse Owens Award, 2001
- United States Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year, 2001
- ESPY award for U.S. Male Olympic athlete of the year, 2001
- Pan American Games champion, 1998
- World Cup Champion, 1996
- Inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, 2010
- Gardner, Rulon and Bob Schaller (contributor). Never Stop Pushing: My Life from a Wyoming Farm to the Olympic Medals Stand, Da Capo Press; First Edition, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7867-1593-0
- Gardner, Rulon; Bob Schaller (2005). Never Stop Pushing. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 43. ISBN 0-7867-1593-6. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- Gardner, Rulon; Bob Schaller (2005). Never Stop Pushing. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 24. ISBN 0-7867-1593-6. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- "Booking Rulon Gardner Speaker Appearances, Rulon Gardner Agent Manager Contact, Hiring Rulon Gardner Speaking Engagements Costs Fees". Athletepromotions.com. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- Posnanski, Joe, "Point After: Losing, and Loving It", Sports Illustrated, March 21, 2011, p. 105.
- "The Biggest Loser" Season 11 Finale Recap: A great cast is the ultimate trump card
- "Gardner lives to tell of another life-threatening accident – Olympics – ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. 2007-02-28. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- "Daugherty: Having embraced wrestling to fullest, Gardner lets go". Enquirer.com. 2004-08-26. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- "NWS Riverton WY – Rulon Gardner". Crh.noaa.gov. 2010-02-04. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- "Olympian Gardner survives small plane crash (AP report)". sports.espn.go.com. ESPN. 2007-02-26. Retrieved 2008-08-09.
- Wolinetz, Adam (2001-06-29). "Rulon Gardner to receive Citizenship Through Sports Alliance award for sportsmanship | TheMat.com – USA Wrestling". TheMat.com. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- "Gardner bio". Nationwide Speakers Bureau. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
- "Rulon Gardner". RulonGardner.com. Rulon Gardner. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
- "Aleksandr KARELIN | Olympic Athlete | Atlanta 1996, Barcelona 1992, Seoul 1988, Sydney 2000". Olympic.org. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- Abbott, Gary. "Two-time Olympic wrestling medalist Rulon Gardner undergoes additional surgery on his foot damaged b | TheMat.com – USA Wrestling". TheMat.com. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- Mihoces, Gary (2004-08-26). "Gardner taking his moves home". Usatoday.Com. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- "Pro-Wrestling Gets 'Real' – Celebrity Gossip | Entertainment News | Arts And Entertainment". FOXNews.com. 2005-03-28. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- "Baltimore Sports News: Sports News, Scores and Schedules – baltimoresun.com". Weblogs.baltimoresun.com. 2011-03-12. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- "Rulon Gardner considers comeback for 2012 Olympics". USA Today. 2011-04-28. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
- "Despite failed comeback, Rulon Gardner is not finished wrestling". Sports Illustrated. 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
- Sherdog.com. "Rulon Gardner MMA Stats, Pictures, News, Videos, Biography". Sherdog.com. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rulon Gardner.|
- Official website
- Professional MMA record for Rulon Gardner from Sherdog
- Olympic profile at sports-reference.com
- Rulon Gardner's page from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- "Nine minutes: How the Sydney Olympics changed wrestler Rulon Gardner's life", Deseret Morning News, February 11, 2007
- Gardner's Biggest Loser profile