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The competitive fire still burns inside Rulon Gardner. Twelve years after his iconic Olympic gold medal victory over previously undefeated Greco-Roman wrestling legend Alexander Karelin, Gardner says he still gets the itch to go out on the mat. The 40-year-old Gardner stopped by the Muscle & Fitness offices this week and said he still thinks he can compete, and has his sights set on getting in shape for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Gardner has had his share of ups and downs since becoming an Olympic champion, both literally and figuratively. Never a lightweight (he competed against Karelin at 285 pounds) Gardner really packed it on after he retired, and hit rock bottom in 2011 when he tipped the scales on NBC’s The Biggest Loser at 474 pounds.
“I hate to say it, but for me, eating has always been a reliever,” Gardner says. “If times are tough, I put something in my mouth because it makes me feel good. It makes me feel full, and then I feel complete, or whole.”
Gardner got back down to 301 through the course of the show, but bowed out with three weeks remaining for personal reasons. By the end, he says he didn’t care about winning the show, but being in the gym made him want to wrestle again.
Gardner also has one of the more unique sponsorships in all of sports. He’s an official “Sweat Ambassador” for Wisk detergent. “I can lose eight pounds of sweat or more in a practice,” Gardner says. “So I guess they thought I’d be the perfect guy.”
Watch Rulon talk about a potential return in the 2016 Olympics here: