To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


 By William May
(Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee
Kyodo World Services, senior sports

Olympic champion hospitalized with hypothermia after rescue

AFTON, Wyo. (AP) _ Olympic wrestling champion Rulon Gardner was hospitalized Friday (Feb. 15) for hypothermia and possible frostbite after spending the night outdoors when he became stranded while snowmobiling.

    Gardner spent the night in temperatures of 15 to 20 degrees below zero (-25/-28 C) and is lucky to be alive, said Lincoln County Sheriff Lee Gardner, a distant cousin of the Greco-Roman wrestling gold medalist. "In that kind of weather it's unusual for someone to stay outall night like that and survive without any kind of shelter. But he's a strong man, and he made it,'" Lee Gardner said.

    The wrestler was snowmobiling with three friends when he became bogged down in deep snow in the Bridger-Teton National Forest near his hometown of Afton, said Lt. Tim Malik.

    Rescuers on snowmobiles and snowshoes launched a search in the dark after the friends reported him missing about 7:40 p.m. Thursday, Malik said. The pilot of a search plane sent out Friday spotted him about 8 a.m.

    Gardner was wearing several layers of clothing but was not adequately dressed for an overnight stay outdoors, the sheriff said. Authorities were concerned when he did not get up to retrieve some extra clothing that a helicopter dropped to him.

    The helicopter landed and Gardner was flown to Star Valley Medical Center in Afton. He later was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, about 100 miles away, for treatment for possible frostbite.

    Malik said he did not know if Gardner was able to build a shelter. The sheriff said he helped Gardner into a wheelchair after the helicopter landed at the Afton hospital. Gardner was able to communicate, but not much, and struggled to walk, the sheriff said.

    "He had so much ice on his feet I don't think he was able to
walk," Lee Gardner said.

    The friends left the forest because they were running out of fuel for their snowmobiles, Malik said. Gardner was the only one unable to get his snowmobile out of the rugged, steep terrain and soft snow.

    Gardner abandoned his snowmobile near Wagner Lake and struck out on foot, said Benton Smith, program manager Greys River District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. "He had moved down that drainage several miles in the night," Smith said. "He was walking at daylight down the drainage."

    Gardner was found in the Salt River drainage, about five miles southeast of the town of Smoot.

    Gardner beat three-time Olympic champion Alexander Karelin of Russia to win a gold medal in perhaps the greatest upset at the Sydney Olympics. Karelin hadn't lost an international match in 13 years. Gardner followed up by capturing the Greco-Roman Wrestling World Championships in December.