Rulon Gardner Eyes Olympic Comeback at 51; USA Wrestler Upset Russia for Gold in 2000

Adam WellsDecember 30, 2022

Athens, GREECE:  Rulon Gardner celebrates winning the bronze medal in the men's Greco-Roman 120 kg match against Iran's Sajad Barzi at the 2004 Olympic games 25 August 2004 in Athens. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU  (Photo credit should read PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images)
Photo credit should read PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner is looking to make it back to the Summer Games at age 51.

Speaking to TMZ Sports, Gardner said he's been training with the goal of competing at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

"I still wanna give more back to the sport, the sport that I love and that's wrestling. When you have a goal like wrestling it makes you get into shape so I've lost a substantial amount of weight, getting healthy again, getting back after it, and now it's getting on the mat. Every day it hurts like heck but it's so fun to be able to get out there and throw with these young kids. It's crazy 'cause I'm wrestling kids half my age."

Gardner said he's lost about 150 pounds in training, with the goal of being able to show he "can still compete with the top-level wrestlers of the world."

This isn't the first time Gardner has attempted to make an Olympic comeback. He was training for the 2012 Games, but he missed the maximum weight limit allowed before the U.S. Olympic Trials.

It's not unheard of for an athlete over age 50 to compete at the Olympics, though it's often in sports that don't require the same type of physical ability as wrestling.

Laura Kraut, 55, became the oldest U.S. woman to medal since 1904 when she won a silver as part of the equestrian jumping team with Jessica Springsteen and McLain Ward at the Tokyo Games.

Sweden's Oscar Swahn is the oldest athlete to compete and medal at the Olympics. He won silver at age 72 as part of the 100-meter running deer shooting team double shots at the 1920 Games in Stockholm, Sweden.

More recently, Dara Torres was 41 years old when she won three silver medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Chris Campbell is the oldest American wrestler to medal at the Olympics. He won bronze in the freestyle 90-kilogram weight class as a 37-year-old in 1992.

Gardner became an Olympic legend for his performance during the 2000 Games in Sydney. The Wyoming native upset Russia's Aleksandr Karelin, who was the reigning three-time Olympic champion and had a 13-year unbeaten streak, in the finals of the 130-kilogram Greco-Roman event.

Four years later, Gardner won bronze in the 120-kilogram weight class. He will be 53 years old when the Paris Games begin.

The qualification period for wrestling at the 2024 Olympics runs from September 2023 through May 2024.

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