There were days when Greco-Roman wrestling champ Rulon Gardner seemed like a modern day superhero; or at least something akin to Bruce Willis’ character from ‘Unbreakable.’
His feat of famously beating Aleksandr Karelin – a Russian who hadn’t lost in 13 years or given up a point in six years – to win gold in Sydney seems downright small when you consider that he survived a snowmobile accident and a night stranded in the wilderness, a terrible motorcycle accident, and even a plane crash that caused him and his friends to swim to safety and bear a night wet and without shelter in the Utah cold.
But for all his struggles against wrestlers, weight, and the wilderness, the famed Gardner has been unable to capitalize on his publicity. Gardner filed for bankruptcy last month after somehow piling up nearly $3 million in debt on a household income of only $37,932, according to the Associated Press.
“I got taken advantage of, and now I’ve got to pay the price,” Gardner said. “I’m trying to make it right.”
Gardner has made some poor business decisions, but says he’s the victim of investment fraud. He’ll offer his story in a deposition scheduled for Oct. 10. Then in November he’ll auction off his most valuable belongings, including a Porsche, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, some knives, watches, autographs and memorabilia.
We can’t imagine these items will chase any more than face value, though. His appearances on NBC’s ‘The Biggest Loser’ and his nearly successful attempt at a comeback at the 2012 Olympic Trials seem like his way of trying to recapture success by using his one proven talent, wrestling, which has of course declined since his first retirement in 2004.
Unfortunately for Gardner, he’s no longer a superhero. We’ve seen him break, and for as much pride as his victory and subsequent cartwheel brought Americans in 2000, the novelty of his celebrity wore off a long time ago. At least we’ll always have Sydney.