Gardner is ready for another gold – minus one toe

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
July 28, 2004, Wednesday

PREVIEW: Gardner is ready for another gold – minus one toe


Rulon Gardner, who scored one of the biggest upsets in Olympic
history by beating Russian wrestling icon Alexander Karelin for
super-heavyweight gold at Sydney 2000, will be back in Athens – minus
one toe. Gardner suffered serious frostbite when left stranded in
freezing temperatures for 17 hours in a snowmobile during a blizzard
in 2002. Doctors feared that he would lose all his toes but managed
to save nine of them. The 2001 world champion Gardner returned to the
greco-roman version of his sport and managed to qualify for the
American Olympic team earlier this year despite further injury
setbacks such as a dislocated wrist and shoulder problems. “It is a
miracle that I am here again. I thank the Lord for allowing me
another chance to follow my dream. I am proud to represent my country
and all it stands for,” he said. Gardner gained worldwide fame four
years ago with a 1-0 victory over Karelin, who had won gold at the
previous three Games and had not lost a fight in 13 years since 1987.
In other events, Armen Nazaryan of Bulgaria looks to become the fifth
three-time gold medallist in the sport’s Olympic history after
claiming the 1996 (for Armenia) and 2000 titles in the greco-roman
60kg division. Russia hope for freestyle gold from 2000 champion
David Musulbes (130kg) and the 1996 winner and five-time world
champion Buvaisa Saitiyev (74kg). The Athens field also features Ali
Salman, one of a few Iraqi athletes. Other strong teams are Turkey
and Iran, and the women make their wrestling debut in Athens a mere
2780 years after the sport first appeared in Olympic competition at
the ancient Games in Olympia. Recognized as the world’s oldest
competition sport, with records of bouts dating back as far as 3000
BC, wrestling was a highlight of the ancient Olympic Games which
started in 776 BC. While valued then as a form of military exercise
without weapons, it remained a main event when the modern Games began
in 1896. Greco-Roman wrestling was resurrected from ancient Greek and
Roman styles, with opponents only allowed to use their arms and upper
bodies to attack and grapple. Freestyle wrestling was added to the
Games in 1904, allowing wrestlers to use their legs for pushing,
lifting and tripping, and holding opponents above and below the
waist. The 18 events will take place at the Ano Liossia Olympic Hall
from August 22 to August 29. dpa jb gb ct