Gardner says body told him to stop comeback

By Luke Meredith

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, April 21 2012 5:25 p.m. MDT

Greco-Roman wrestler Rulon Gardner speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team Trials, Saturday, April 21, 2012, in Iowa City, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Rulon Gardner's coach said the 40-year-old heavyweight trained like a madman to get back to the Olympics.

But Gardner's body told him it was time to stop cutting weight just hours before he was set to weigh in for the Olympic Team Trials.

Gardner said he reached 269 pounds Friday morning before he realized he'd been pushing himself too hard to reach the 264.5-pound limit for his weight class.

Gardner declined to weigh in, ending his bid to reach the London Olympics.

"I felt a little bit disappointed. But my body got to a point where it told me it's time you stop pushing yourself," Gardner said. "I could have hurt myself. But it isn't about making the Olympic team. That was only a by-product, and that's part of me getting healthy."

Gardner's aborted comeback bid is likely the end of a career that national team coach Steve Fraser said was the most decorated in the history of American Greco-Roman wrestling.

Gardner won the gold medal in Sydney in 2000 and bronze in Athens eight years ago. He gained nearly 200 pounds after retiring from wrestling in 2004 — getting as high as 474 pounds — but a successful stint on the NBC reality show "The Biggest Loser" convinced him to give wrestling one final shot.

"For me, it isn't just about being a wrestler. It's about going out and, I think, being a healthier person. That's the journey I've been on the past few years, and I'm pleased to tell you (Saturday) that I'm healthier again," Gardner said.

Fraser applauded Gardner's comeback efforts, saying he trained as many as four times a day. But Gardner needed to reach the coveted weight limit while maintaining enough strength to compete at the highest level and fell short in the end.

"I'm very proud of him. I was very excited he was going to make this run at the Olympics. I didn't know if he could do it or not. He was big," Fraser said. "Let me tell you. This guy trained harder than any guy on our team."

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