Thursday, September 28, 2000
Wrestler turns Olympics on its head
SYDNEY, Australia It wasn't Lake Placid, if only because Greco-Roman wrestling isn't hockey. Greco-Roman wrestling isn't even freestyle wrestling, which isn't exactly a glamour sport. Greco is the original, if arcane, style of wrestling. It's older than the Olympics.
So there is a good chance Rulon Gardner's epic win in the 130-kilo final Wednesday will be just another pleasant American tale of boy-makes-good. Another gold ribbon to hang on the U.S. tree.
But understand: This was like reversing the Mississippi River with a coffee mug.
Gardner beat Alexander Karelin 1-0 in overtime. It was unexpected; it was stirring; it was one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.
I don't know where to start, Gardner said afterward.
How about here:
Karelin, a Russian, hadn't lost in 13 years. He's the Yankees times 10. He has three Olympic golds and nine world titles. He'd given up exactly three points in the last eight years. He has a forehead like a banquet table.
The other wrestlers call him The Experiment.
Remember Ivan Drago, the villain from Rocky IV? I must break you.