Rulon Gardner says 'Biggest Loser' sparks a possible return to competitive wrestling
Two-time Olympian and wrestling legend Rulon Gardner released a statement Wednesday morning regarding his abrupt decision to quit "The Biggest Loser" even though some considered him the frontrunner to win the Season 11 title and the $250,000 pay day.
It doesn't answer all the questions. But it does reveal that the 39-year-old may return to competitive wrestling, a development he attributes to the show. A return to competitive wrestling could be a fitting next step for the athlete whose life story -- both on and off the wrestling mat -- reads like an over-the-top Hollywood script. (More on that below). Here is the statement:
“Participating on ‘The Biggest Loser’ was a fantastic experience. I went on the show to get my life and my health back and I have accomplished that goal. I want to thank the trainers and all those connected with the show who helped me in that endeavor. Once I reached my goal and started feeling like my old self, I felt compelled to return home and support my wife, Kamie, in the ongoing management of our personal and professional affairs. The real prize for me in participating on the show was regaining my life back and thanks to the show I have accomplished that. Another exciting outcome is that I am strongly considering a return to competitive wrestling.”
A story at wrestling outlet the Mat also chronicles Rulon's desire to embrace his inner athlete. A return to wrestling would no doubt make for yet another chapter in a thrilling life story. Gardner was raised on a farm in Wyoming where hard work and farm chores helped build the strength that would serve him later in life and help him survive an almost unbelievable string of near-death experiences as well as larger-than-life victories:
As a kid, Rulon was impaled by an arrow during show-and-tell at school. Years later, Gardner pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history by defeating a man who many believed could not be beat -- Russian Alexander Karelin -- at the Sydney Summer Olympics in 2000.
Rulon made headlines two years later when he was stranded for 17 hours in the snow and cold after a snowmobile accident. He lost a toe to frostbite but was soon back in training. Then, just weeks before he headed to the Athens Olympics in 2004, he was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle and suffered a wrist injury.
He couldn't duplicate his gold-medal victory in Athens, but he earned bronze. And after that final match, he left his Size 13 shoes on the mat -- a sign that he would never return to competitive wrestling. He retired to a life in Utah that included public speaking and an athletic training center and gym.
But he was soon back in the news again when a small aircraft he was traveling in crashed into a lake near the Utah-Arizona border on a frigid February night in 2007: It took almost an hour for the three men aboard to swim to land, only to face a night of subfreezing temperatures once they got there. As luck would have it, they were rescued hours later by a fisherman.
Rulon, who said he relied upon his Mormon faith to see him through, said in an interview that he adopted a "live every day like it's your last" attitude. But that outlook also translated into never passing up a good meal or a fast-food restaurant. And before long, the man who had no problem wrestling for three hours at a clip was 474 pounds and had trouble walking down the street without becoming winded.
Enter "The BIggest Loser." The show's trainers, including newcomers Brett and Cara, as well as regulars Bob and Jillian, relished the opportunity to work Rulon out (or beat him into the ground) and get inside the mind of an athlete. Bob said that despite Rulon's athletic gifts, his story was nonetheless relevant to the average American who just gives up on health and weight loss. Rulon started at 474 pounds and ended up losing nearly 200 pounds while at the ranch.
Rulon rubbed some of his fellow contestants the wrong way with his brusqe demeanor. (At recent challenges, the fellow competitors seemed to be united in making sure that "anyone but Rulon" won.)
Stay tuned for what happens next.
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Photo: Rulon works out with Bob earlier in the season. NBC