Summarized by Kent Larsen
Olympic Champ Gardner Returns to Home Today
AFTON, WYOMING -- LDS Olympic Gold Medalist Rulon Gardner is scheduled to
return to his home town of Afton, Wyoming today, much to the delight of the
town, which is anxious to see its new hero. Gardner returns to the town
after appearing on talk shows and on-line chats, in the process disclosing
some of his plans.
But first, Gardner returns home to the 1,500 residents of Afton where
storefronts sport signs that read "Rule On Rulon" and "Rulon Wins Gold" and
children wear gray T-shirts with his picture on the front and the words
"Miracle on the Mat" on the back. The town's population could more than
double for today's homecoming. "This is probably the greatest thing in the
valley since the first settlers survived early winters," said Mayor Jerry
Before coming home, Gardner visted Los Angeles and New York, appearing on
both the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno and on David Letterman's "Late Show."
He also appeared on the "Rosie O'Donnell" show on Tuesday, had an on-line
chat on CNNSI.com and even presented medals on "Good Morning America" when
host Diane Sawyer took on correspondent Don Dahler in a street luge. He even
presented his own gold medal temporarily to an onlooker who was hit when
Sawyer ended up in the crowd.
In his online chat, Gardner hinted that his "15 minutes of fame" was as
exhausting as a match, "Just imagine sitting around for two months doing
nothing and then having to run around 24 hours a day for two months for no
sleep" Gardner wrote in the chat. He also said that he has a book in the
works, "But with whom, I don't know. Right now we are in the first stages of
He said he hasn't yet signed any endorsements, but "I am waiting for some
every day." He has reportedly turned down a million-dollar offer from the
World Wrestling Foundatoin and a motorcycle endorsement offer. His brother
Russ Gardner says "He's being very careful in how he markets himself."
Back in Afton, the town is remembering the man they know. Brother Russ says
that Gardner is truly humble, "it's not an act. He'd give you the shirt off
his back." Wrestling coach Barry Bayorek, who coached Gardner in junior high
school, remembers a different Gardner, one he never imagined would make the
Olympics, "If Rulon lost, he shrugged it off. I never thought he was that
serious, but that was in junior high school. But if you're asking me did I
see the Olympics in his future, no way."
His mother, Virginia Gardner, says it wasn't until he was attending Ricks
that Rulon even mentioned the goal. "He said he wanted to be in Atlanta (in
1996) and I said, 'C'mon, that's a little soon." Gardner missed making the
weigh-ins by 22 seconds, and he didn't compete there.
Instead he prepared. He married, trained in Arizona where he met his wife,
Stacy, and then moved to Colorado Springs, where they have a home. But that
may be temporary, Gardner is reportedly thinking about buying two acres of
the family farm and settling near Afton.
Town Eager for Gold Medalist Return
Minneapolis MN Star-Tribune (AP) 9Oct00 S2
By Becky Bohrer: Associated Press Writer
Gardner grapples with success
Chicago IL Sun-Times 11Oct00 S2
By Elliott Harris
Sawyer a Real Runaway Hit in Street Luge
NY Post 7Oct00 S2
By Rita Delfiner
Gardner Starts His 15 Minutes of Fame
The Not-So-Little Wrestler That Could