Olympian Gardner Triumphs After Nearly-Fatal Accident

Olympian Gardner Triumphs After Nearly-Fatal Accident

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News Specialist Shelley Osterloh reporting

We met Rulon Gardner more than two years ago -- a young man from Star Valley, Wyoming whose dream came true when he won Olympic gold in Greco Roman wrestling.

But earlier this year he faced an even tougher challenge when he spent a night alone in the mountains and nearly froze to death.

Now he's doing remarkably well, especially considering that doctors told him last February they might have to amputate his feet because they were so frozen.

Instead, he lost only one toe, and in spite of a painful recovery he is back wrestling and has won two matches.

Last February, while the rest of the world watched the 2002 Olympics, Gardner was at his Star Valley, Wyoming home. He went snowmobiling with friends, but when it got dark they became separated.

While looking for his friend, Rulon tumbled down a 50-foot cliff with his machine.

The snow was too deep and the cliff was too steep to get out.

As he tried to walk along the frozen river he fell through the ice, was soaked, then his boots and jacket froze around him.

"To go out there and make it out there for 18 hours, at 25 below, and deal with the fact that you may lose your feet and to come back and first be alive ... and then realize that I know there is a God, and there is Jesus, and I actually saw my brother that night, all three of them. And that right there let me know how close I was to death," Gardner says.

"Every day we are on this earth is a good day. And I should have died that night and the good Lord allowed me to. I prayed numerous times and numerous times. I felt myself slipping away, but I had the mental ability to come back," he says.

The same mental toughness that allowed him to win a gold medal against all odds helped him survive that horrible night.

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