2012 Olympics: U.S. Wrestler Rulon Gardner Ends Comeback Bid

Mark SmoyerFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2012

ATLANTA - JUNE 20:  Rulon Gardner leaves the match after wrestling Jairo Rodriques of Spain during the Titan Games June 20, 2004 at Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Rulon Gardner, the massive U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler who stunned the Olympic world when he beat unbeatable Russian Alexander Karelin at the 2000 Sydney Games, has given up in his comeback bid for this summer's London Games.

Gardner has been on a well-publicized weight-loss campaign he hoped would culminate with his entry in this weekend's U.S. Olympic wrestling trials in Iowa City. However, the Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colo., reports that Gardner did not step onto the scale at Friday's weigh-in, knowing he hadn't lost enough weight to enter the 264.5-lb. weight class.

This makes the U.S. wrestling team 0-for-3 on amazing comeback stories. Kurt Angle, a 1996 U.S. gold medalist who became a pro wrestler, ended his comeback bid earlier this month. Cael Sanderson, a 2004 gold medalist and the head coach of Penn State's program, had taken steps toward competing for a 2012 berth, but backed away. And now Gardner.

It may be just as well that Gardner didn't quite make it down to the necessary weight, as it's hard to imagine he'd be in fighting shape after devoting himself so much to losing pounds. Better that he is remembered for his defeat of the Russian Bear, Karelin, although his many misadventures since then— including a frightening encounter with frostbite—will make it difficult to focus only on his moment of great glory.