Losing weight is just the latest battle in the incredible life of Rulon Gardner.
As a contestant on this season's "The Biggest Loser," which airs again tonight, Gardner tipped the scales at 474 pounds, more than 200 pounds heavier than he was as an Olympic champion wrestler. On last week's season premiere, Gardner lost 32 pounds—and he likely still has a long way to go to reach his personal goal, which he is not disclosing.
Rulon Gardner's gold-medal Greco-Roman wrestling win in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney was the greatest upset in the sport's history, and maybe one of the greatest in sports history. Gardner defeated Russian Alexander Karelin, who entered the match with a 13-year winning streak. (That's years, not matches, mind you.)
Life hasn't always been kind to Gardner since that win, yet he somehow has managed to make it through relatively unscathed. In 2002, after snowmobiling in his native Wyoming, he spent a night in the wilderness in which temperatures reached 25 below zero. He lost a toe to frostbite.
In 2004, he was riding his motorcycle in Colorado when he was struck by a car, yet he suffered only minor cuts. He went on to win the bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and hung up his wrestling shoes for good.
Then in 2007, Gardner and two others survived a plane crash at Lake Powell, UT, in which the three men had to swim to safety before spending the night without shelter. They were rescued the next morning. None of the three men sustained injuries.
Yet all the while, Gardner was slowly cheating death in a different way by letting himself go to an alarming, morbidly obese weight. It wasn't until he noticed himself on TV at an event honoring his induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame last summer that Gardner decided to take control of his weight and his life.
Gardner is a club owner. He and partner Justin Pope own the Rulon Gardner Elite Training Center in Logan, UT. Pope also is Gardner's partner on "The Biggest Loser." As a team, they combined to lose 59 pounds in the first week, the most among the 11 teams on the show.
Losing the necessary weight may not be the most memorable victory in Gardner's life, but it will be the most important.