Rulon Gardner Never Stops Pushing
Posted by Ron Springer | 4/19/12
Throughout my career in event planning, I have had many interesting experiences that I never could have predicted. One especially memorable one was working with Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner.
Gardner’s win over Russian Aleksandr Karelin at the Sydney Olympics was nothing short of epic. Karelin was the considered to be the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time and was undefeated and un-scored upon in 13 years of competition. The crowd in Sydney first sensed an upset in the making when Karelin broke his grip on his opponent. The announcers went wild, along with the crowd.
Rulon Gardner’s defeat of Alexander the Great is one of the greatest moments in Olympic history, ranking right up there with the 1980 Miracle on Ice. It was completely unexpected, totally thrilling, and it endeared this baby-faced young man from a Wyoming dairy farm to the nation.
In 2001, I had the opportunity to do some speech writing and coaching with Rulon Gardner, who these days makes his living as a motivational speaker. It was fun getting to know him, and we did a good job helping him find a way to tell his story in a way that highlighted some important key messages, while making it sound like him, and not like it was written by someone else.
One really fun moment we had was when I was planted in the audience and “randomly” selected to wrestle him on stage. That’s not something you ever forget! The other amazing memory I have is a morning I spent coaching him for an evening speech college in Fort Wayne, IN. That day was September 11, 2001. To the college’s credit the speech went on as planned that evening, but stopped when President Bush came on television to speak to the nation. After the President was finished, Rulon resumed his speech. He did a wonderful job and brought a few hundred people some comfort when we really needed each other.
Gardner has had an eventful life in the 12 years since his historic win in Sydney. He suffered hypothermia and frostbite after a snowmobile accident, after which he lost a toe. He also survived a plane crash. In 2011, he staged a remarkable comeback of a different sort as a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” where he lost a substantial amount of weight, down 173 pounds from a height of 474 pounds in just 16 weeks. His life has been anything but dull. I learned a lot from him in the time I spent with him, and it was a terrific experience for me to help him move to a new chapter in his life. And, I saw first-hand the benefit an inspiring speaker can bring to an event.
Will we see you this summer in London, Rulon?
Watch the video Gardner shows before being introduced to an audience.