GRECO-ROMAN WRESTLING Gardner defeated in semifinal match
XATHENS, Greece -- Rulon Gardner was in another Olympic wrestling upset -- his own.
One of the biggest stars of the 2000 Summer Games, Gardner was thrown to the mat in overtime today by Kazakhstan's Georgi Tsurtsumia and lost 4-1 in his Greco-Roman semifinal match. He will wrestle for the bronze medal later today.
Gardner was as surprised as anyone when Tsurtsumia somehow pulled off the winning 3-point move in their 2641/2-pound (120kg) match, especially after spending much of the match visibly wearing down the younger wrestler.
Just like that, Rulon's remarkable comeback from a spate of injuries and misfortune was finished. Kneeling on the mat as Tsurtsumia celebrated, Gardner thought "It's over, it's done," he said. "Beyond that, I wasn't even tired."
Minutes later, Gardner was composed and gracious to his opponent. He greeted reporters with a "Hey, how are you doing?" then went into a long, clinical explanation of how it happened.
The short version of the match from Gardner: He aggressively went at Tsurtsumia, trying to take the lead against a tiring opponent, but left himself unguarded and Tsurtsumia stepped around and took him to the mat.
"One throw and that's the whole match," Gardner said. "One mistake."
Gardner wound on top of Tsurtsumia once they struck the mat, but neither Gardner nor his coach argued the scoring -- even though Gardner, while on the mat, briefly hoped he would get credit for the reversal.
"Look, these guys are good -- he was third in the world last year," Gardner said. "They watch hours of film, their coaches are back there yesterday, yelling, teaching, coaching them, telling them everything to do out there."
Gardner already knows where he's going from here: into retirement. He plans to leave his shoes on the mat after the bronze medal match, the traditional sign that a wrestler's career is over.