Olympic Gold medalist and former champion freestyle wrestler, Rulon Gardner, is set to make a comeback to wrestling at the age of 51.
What’s bringing him out of retirement?
The desire to bring America into the conversation of Greco-Roman wrestling; which has seen a dip in popularity amongst American wrestlers. He’s hoping to bring back a medal and inspire a newfound interest in the sport amongst the youth.
Greco-Roman wrestling is a variation of wrestling that allows for holds that only originate above the waist; as opposed to the more popular Freestyle rules, which allow for holds across the entire body.
Rulon Gardner made a name for himself in Greco-Roman wrestling in 2000 with a win over the incredibly dominant Russian wrestler, Aleksander Karelin, who’d enjoyed a 13-year-long winning streak prior to their bout in the Olympic Heavyweight final. He proceeded to win a world title in 2001 as well.
In 2004, he went on to win a bronze medal after a tumultuous few years, including a snowmobile accident that led to him being stranded in the wilderness for 17 hours, at subzero temperatures and losing a toe because of it. At the close of his bronze medal match, he left his shoes on the mat, signifying the end of an amazing career.
In 2010, Gardner joined the tv show, The Biggest Loser, to lose weight in time for an Olympic weightlifting comeback in 2012. Although he was able to cut his weight from 474 lb to 280, the weight limit for Olympic trials was 264.5, which made him ineligible to return to the Olympic stage.
In recent years, he has been coaching teens in wrestling, at Herriman High School in Utah. It is on those same mats that he’s been sparring and drilling with friends and peers from his generation, and younger, to get fit and ready for a comeback.