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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended October 06, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 02Oct00

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


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