Gardner delivers message of life

Olympic champion speaks to Boy Scouts

PHTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Rulon Gardner meeting with Boy Scouts and wrestlers at Two Rivers Convention Center.Art to go with Kent’s story.Sent as RULON GARDNER 10-16.

Some say Rulon Gardner has cheated death a couple of times.

No, he doesn’t have a death wish.

“I still like to have fun,” the former Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling champion said Friday. “I want to live long.”

Gardner shared a message of life with Western Colorado Boy Scouts and their supporters at Two Rivers Convention Center with a speech on not giving up.

Gardner’s visit was sponsored by the Western Colorado Council of the Boy Scouts.

The 2000 Sydney Olympics heavyweight wrestling champion, who upset Aleksandr Karelin in the gold medal match, said he went through a lot of adversity in life to get to that point, especially from those who doubted him.

“I found out I had a learning disability,” he said of his childhood in Afton, Wyo.

Rather than giving up, it make Gardner work harder. After high school he defied counselors who suggested he go another academic direction by getting an associate’s degree at Ricks (Idaho) College. Though it took him 4 1/2 years at the University of Nebraska, he got his bachelor’s degree in physical education.

Gardner told the crowd of his seven steps to overcoming adversity — steps such as learning the basics, turning a negative into a positive, training hard, not letting failure stop him.

Those aren’t lessons in sports, but in life, he said.

Gardner has overcome more than his fair share of adversity off the wrestling mat.

In February 2002, only four days after carrying the Olympic torch bound for Salt Lake City through Glenwood Springs and a year and a half after his gold medal triumph, Gardner was stranded overnight eight miles outside Afton after a snowmobile accident. He spent 15 cold hours steeling himself against sub-zero temperatures. Through it all, he lost only one toe to frostbite and defied some who said he couldn’t make the Olympic team after going through three operations on his foot.

Months before he was to wrestle for a spot on the 2004 Olympic team that competed in Athens, he was in a motorcycle accident near the Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs. Injuries from that accident couldn’t deter him from achieving his goal of making a second Olympic team.

In one of his more famous escapades, Gardner was aboard a plane leaving Lake Powell on Feb. 24, 2007, when the plane crashed into the water.

Reliving his story for the crowd, he recounted how he swam for two hours in 43-degree water to reach shore.

Ironically, it was two Grand Junction residents competing in a bass fishing tournament, Bill Brown and Damien Loy, who spotted one of Gardner’s companions and rescued them from their overnight stay in Good Hope Bay.

Gardner expects to open a gym in Logan, Utah, next month.

“I’ve put over four years of work into it,” he said, including recovering from a downturn in the economy to achieve the goal.

Gardner, who spoke at six high schools in Wyoming last week, enjoys relaying his message to youngsters.

“Hopefully (they) can use my life to get through whatever (they) get through,” he said.

Gardner’s gym in Logan will include facilities to train in mixed martial arts, grappling and wrestling.

Gardner has solicited the help of one of his acquaintances from the OTC in Colorado Springs to help with MMA training; he’ll handle the wrestling.

“We want to find kids who want to succeed not necessarily for sports but for life, getting kids to realize they’re not awkward,” he said.

Among his parting words to the youngsters: “Don’t doubt yourself, don’t question yourself.”


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