Rulon Gardner of USA (left) celebrates winning the gold medal by defeating Alexandre Kareline of Russia (right) in the 130 kilogram event during the Greco Roman wrestling held at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. (Billy Stickland/ALLSPORT)
April 20 (Reuters) – American wrestler Rulon Gardner, who overcome long odds to win a 2000 Olympic gold and later survived two death-threatening incidents, has ended his bid to qualify for the London Games, he said on Friday.
Gardner, 40, elected not to weigh in for this weekend’s U.S. Olympic wrestling trials in Iowa when he missed the 120 kilogram (264.5 pound) limit for the heavyweight division by five pounds (2.3kg), he said in a statement.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t make the weigh in,” said Gardner, who also won a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. “I worked hard. I was within five pounds. I’m glad I did this and have my health back.”
His weight had ballooned to more than 470 pounds before he lost more than 170 on a reality television show in 2011 and decided to make a wrestling comeback.
Gardner grabbed international headlines at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when the Wyoming farm boy stunned Russian Aleksandr Karelin for the gold medal. Karelin had not lost a match in 13 years.
A 2002 snowmobile accident resulted in the amputation of a toe after Gardner was stranded in winter weather in the Wyoming mountains for 18 hours.
Five years later he survived a plane crash into the frigid waters of Lake Powell, Utah, forcing him and two others to swim for an hour to reach shore.
“We applaud him for his gallant effort and for his commitment to living a healthier lifestyle,” USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender said in a statement.
“He is a great champion and will continue to be an asset for USA Wrestling and Team USA through the Olympic Games and beyond.”