Rulon Gardner on Olympic wrestling, future

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
2:00
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Rulon GardnerMatthew Stockman/Getty ImagesRulon Gardner, 40, isn't slowing down and has set his sights on the 2016 Olympic Games.
Here are the first words out of Rulon's Gardner's mouth:

"I wish I were in London."

And he's not talking about just broadcasting, which he will do. The 40-year-old U.S. Olympic gold- and bronze-medal wrestler is talking about competing.

"This old dog has a lot of hunting left in him," Gardner said.

On Thursday, Gardner was in New York representing Wisk laundry brand as its first "sweat ambassador."

"Who else would be the best person? Wrestlers have to cut weight. I lose about 6 to 10 pounds of sweat per practice," said Gardner, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2000 and a bronze in 2004. "Michael Phelps may be the best athlete of all time, but nobody can compete with me when it comes to sweating. I'm the Olympic sweat gold medalist!"

Gardner might be joking about a lot of things, but he's still serious about getting back on the mat to compete. This spring he was 5 pounds too heavy to compete in the U.S. Olympic trials, but he hasn't given up his goal of competing again.

Playbook had a few minutes with Gardner:

Why are you wanting to do this, get back out there and fight?

"I love it. Guys see me as 40 years old and think I'm past my prime. Then I get out there and kick the tar out of them. I still have the ability. I have the respect of the coaches, and the other wrestlers fear me. People might think 40 years old is past your prime, but I think I'm coming into my prime."

So what's it going to be like to watch wrestling at these Olympic Games?

"My mind is still there. Watching these guys, I'll be putting myself in their situation. I know I can compete. People say, 'If you were there, you would have won a medal.' Wrestling a guy 20 years old, I know how to confuse them. I've been wrestling for 35 years. I've been sweating that long too. It's a big process, but I'm still learning."

You've overcome so many obstacles from a plane crash and a snowmobile accident, so this will be nothing new, right?


"From having a learning disability to school to college to high school teaching to having that Olympic aspiration and retire and then do 'Biggest Loser,' I don't look at life as barriers and limitations. I think about life experiences teaching what you're good at. Every day is a missed opportunity. So the next four years, it's going to be a positive learning experience."

Was your lowest point being so heavy -- 474 pounds -- and doing the TV reality show?

"I think it was even before that. I then thought about all the success and all the wonderful things out there. It started the healing process. It wasn't all about the weight I had gained. I was in business, building a gym. I had to get my head right. I realized that wrestling was the thing that got me to that point. So now I'm setting my sights to wrestle in October at a New York Athletic Club event and moving forward to try out for the 2012 world championships in Budapest, Hungary. I've reset my sights for that."

So these Olympics will be good motivation.

"It will build the inferno inside of me. The fire is getting lit more and more every day to compete for victory. Don't overlook me for next year's world championships, and then in four years you'll see me back on the podium with the Team USA jersey on."

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