The 1980 Miracle on Ice still gets more recognition, but Rulon Gardner‘s legendary Greco-Roman triumph over Alexander Karelin at the 2000 Summer Olympics was just as unlikely. One of the most intimidating figures in sports history, Karelin had been undefeated for 13 years, and hadn’t even given up a point in six when he met Gardner in Sydney. The American managed to shake loose a point from the Russian Experiment while shutting down Karelin’s offense, and went home with a gold medal. It was just one of many brushes with death that the former farm-boy managed to survive.
Gardener retired from wrestling four years later after taking a bronze medal in Athens, but he wasn’t done competing. On New Year’s Eve 2004, Gardner competed in his first and only MMA match at PRIDE Shockwave 2004, where he won a unanimous decision against 1992 Judo gold-medalist (and PRIDE/Sengoku veteran) Hidehiko Yoshida. The second round of that fight is above. Gardner never competed in another MMA match.
Somehow, Rulon has managed to gain 200 pounds since then. That’s the bad news. The good news is, he can currently be seen as a contestant on the eleventh season of The Biggest Loser, which premiered last night on NBC. Hey, if it worked for Fat Gina Carano, why not an Olympic legend? After the jump: A video feature on the historic Gardner vs. Karelin match, and Gardner’s intro package from TBL…
(When Rulon met Alexander…)
(Karelin is watching you.)