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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended October 13, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 14Oct00

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 Hansen.

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 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 it."

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

See also:

Gardner Starts His 15 Minutes of Fame

The Not-So-Little Wrestler That Could


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