Summarized by Kent Larsen
Gardner Starts His 15 Minutes of Fame
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA -- Since winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics by beating
Russian super-heavyweight Alexander Karelin, called the "toughest man in the
world," Rulon Gardner has begun his "15 minutes" of fame -- and they are
sure to last several weeks. In the process, the media is discovering
Gardner's Mormonism and his struggle with a learning disability.
Immediately after winning the medal, Gardner was mobbed by his coaches. He
describes it in a phone call to a friend, "Did you see my coaches mob me?
Did you happen to notice which one grabbed my wallet? . . . Nahhh, just
joking." He then tells the friend about a second, slower mobbing that has
just started, "I just did CNN. Right, right -- with Nick Charles. It's going
to be on at 2 o'clock; that's midnight your time. I'm going to 'The Today
Show' -- no, tonight. . . . Don't know about 'Good Morning America' yet."
It hasn't really slowed down yet. Gardner didn't get to sleep until 6 am the
night after the match. He did interviews again the next day, and a photo
shoot for Sports Illustrated. He carried the US flag in the closing ceremony
of the Olympics and instead of heading home, Gardner will visit Los Angeles
and New York City immediately following the games to hit the talk shows.
His hometown is trying to figure out when to throw a homecoming celebration
and parade for him, difficult because Gardners schedule is so much in flux.
Its even more difficult because the town wants to hold it before the hunting
season starts (and the town turns into a ghost town) in the middle of the
month, and because Republican Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates
George Bush and Dick Chaney want to be there.
The town itself is getting lots of attention as news media try to find out
everything about Gardner. It seems nearly everyone in town (all 1,481) has
given interviews, from Gardner's High School coaches to the town Mayor to
Diane Riley, owner of the Lazy B model in Afton, Wyoming, the main town in
heavily-Mormon Star Valley.
Meanwhile, perhaps the most interesting untold story about Gardner is hinted
at in a Rocky Mountain News article, which indicates that Gardner struggled
through High School because of a learning disability. However, his wrestling
(he was state champion in 1991) motivated him to continue, first to Ricks
College, and then to the University of Nebraska, where Gardner received a
degree in Physical Education.
Since then he has not only struggled to keep his wrestling career going, he
has also become a secondary school teacher. That job is in some ways as
involving as wrestling. Just three hours before he wrestled Karelin, Gardner
was on the phone from Sydney to the US, talking with a child.
Like Gardner, the student was large for his age -- 97 pounds in first grade.
Also like Gardner, the child had been teased because of his weight. In
tears, he asked his father to call Gardner. Reportedly, Gardner told the boy
he was going to beat the Russian and come home and wrestle with him.
Biggest dream in the valley
Denver CO Rocky Mountain News 1Oct00 S2
By Lynn Bartels: Denver Rocky Mountain News Capitol Bureau
Wyoming hometown feels mighty good over Olympic gold for wrestling champ
Keeping Score: Giant farm boy hits the big time
USA Today pg3C 29Sep00 S2
By Jon Saraceno