Sunday, February 11, 2007

Nine minutes: How the Sydney Olympics changed wrestler Rulon Gardner's life

By Doug Robinson

Nine minutes. That was all it took to change Rulon Gardner's life, for better or worse — one nine-minute wrestling match against a legendary Russian, and here he is, almost seven years later, still riding the wave of his Olympic triumph in Sydney.

The wave has brought him to Utah and deposited him in a mountainside home, high above North Salt Lake, where he lives conspicuously alone when he is here at all.

He spends 200 to 300 days a year on the road, telling people the story of how a Wyoming farm boy slew Goliath. He spends so many days on the road that he moved here to be close to Salt Lake International Airport, which can be seen from his balcony. He plans to buy a private plane soon to save travel time; he will pilot the plane himself. His life is travel, speaking and phone calls, all spin-offs from those magical nine minutes.

"When we first went to Sydney, we had no idea what was ahead of us," says Gardner's father, Reed, a retired dairy farmer.

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