IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Former Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner failed on Friday to add yet another chapter to his Encyclopedia-thick book of overcoming odds when he elected not to weigh in for this weekend's U.S. Olympic wrestling trials.
Gardner, 40, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist, had been training for a comeback since losing nearly 200 pounds on the NBC reality television show, "The Biggest Loser." On Thursday, he told the Los Angeles Times he weighed 280 pounds, roughly 15 more than the 264.5-pound limit for the heavyweight division in Greco-Roman wrestling. He expressed confidence he could sweat off the remaining pounds prior to Friday afternoon's weigh-in. But apparently that didn't happen as Gardner elected not to weigh in and enter the trials.
Gardner said in a statement released by USA Wrestling that he was within five pounds of reaching the 264.5-pound limit for his weight class before falling short.
"I'm disappointed I didn't make the weigh in. I worked hard," Gardner said. "I'm glad I did this and have my health back."
In the same statement, Rich Bender, the executive director for USA Wrestling, praised Gardner for his comeback attempt.
"We applaud him for his gallant effort and for his commitment to living a healthier lifestyle," Bender said. "He is a great champion and will continue to be an asset for USA Wrestling and Team USA through the Olympic Games and beyond."
Gardner received international notoriety in 2000 when he stunned Russian Alexander Karelin for the gold medal in Sydney. Karelin had not lost a match in the previous 13 years and had not surrendered a point in six. But that was only the beginning of the Wyoming farm boy's incredible tale. He nearly died in a 2002 snowmobile accident that left him stranded in Wyoming for 18 hours, resulting in the amputation of a toe. Then in 2007, he survived when his plane crashed into Lake Powell, Utah, forcing Gardner to swim for an hour in 44-degree waters to reach shore.
After earning a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Games, he retired from the sport and served as a television analyst in Beijing. But his weight ballooned to 474 pounds, his self-esteem crumbled and he found himself on a reality show trying to put his life back together. That's when he set his sights on a return to the mat, a comeback that appears to have come to an end on Friday.
"I'm a wrestler with nine toes. I'm a wrestler who has been through a lot of battles," he told the Times on Thursday. "I get to do a lot of motivational speaking and people are blown away and say, 'You never quit. You keep coming back.' You know what? Life is too short. You can look at what you didn't accomplish or look at what you can accomplish, and I'm going to go out and accomplish more in my future. I think my best days are ahead of me."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.