At the Olympic Games Sydney 2000, Greco-Roman wrestler Rulon Gardner beat the world’s most dominant wrestler and three-time reigning Olympic champion, Aleksandr Karelin of Russia, propelling him to stardom. But what came after the ‘miracle on the mat’ was even more unpredictable. Gardner’s incredible story is featured in the upcoming Olympic Channel feature-length documentary, Rulon Gardner Won’t Die, which premieres worldwide on Wednesday, 3 June at olympicchannel.com and on its apps for mobile and connected TV devices.
Rulon Gardner Won’t Die, part of the Five Rings Films collection, tells the inspiring story of Rulon Gardner, the youngest of nine children from a Wyoming farming family, who twenty years ago shocked the world at the Olympic Games in Sydney and became an American icon overnight. Instant fame was then followed by tragedy and adversity including near-death experiences, crushing weight gain and bankruptcy. Now, he’s returned to wrestling as a high school coach and is trying to make sense of his legacy – both as an American icon and a cautionary tale for what can come after a miracle.
“This film is an honest look at not only the success I have achieved, but at the hardships that preceded and have followed my Olympic experience,” said Gardner. “I hope that people watching at home will find their own sources of motivation and determination – especially during tough and unpredictable times like we are going through now – and remember that when you get knocked down, you can always get up and persevere.”
Told in the first person by Gardner and directed by Adam Irving, Rulon Gardner Won’t Die features never-before-seen video, exclusive International Olympic Committee (IOC) archive footage and insightful interviews with wrestlers Karelin and former world champion Dremiel Byers, and Gardner’s coach and 1984 Olympic gold medallist Steve Fraser.Additional commentary includes media personalities who have covered Gardner’s Olympic career and rise to stardom including Bob Costas, Katie Couric, Phil Hersh, Jim Lampley and Joe Posnanski.
“If Rulon’s life story was a fictional movie, Hollywood executives would say it’s too far-fetched. No one would believe it,” said Irving. “Most viewers will be drawn to Rulon’s hard-fought path to Olympic glory, from dairy farmer to global superstar, followed by countless struggles and cheating death multiple times, in the shadow of short-lived fame. As a storyteller, I was drawn to his third act: After achieving fame and success so early in life, what does a normal guy do for the next fifty years?”
Five Rings Films, the Olympic Channel’s signature documentary series, is a series of incisive and entertaining documentaries directed by some of the biggest names in film from around the world. In addition to depictions of iconic individuals and record-breaking teams, each feature length film showcases the incredible humanity, variety and achievements of the modern Olympic era.
Five Rings Films is produced exclusively for the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) global media platform by Frank Marshall and Mandalay Sports Media (MSM). Marshall, whose producing credits include legendary titles such as “Jason Bourne,” “Jurassic World” and “Indiana Jones” franchises, serves as executive producer alongside MSM’s Mike Tollin andJon Weinbach whose recent credits include “The Last Dance”. Greg Groggel will serve as executive producer for the Olympic Channel.
Offering year-round coverage of Olympic sports and elite athletes in their quest for success, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Olympic Channel over-the-top (OTT) streaming service is available worldwide and subscription-free at olympicchannel.com, its mobile apps and on connected TV devices.