Sometimes it takes just a single, legendary performance to solidify yourself as one of the all-time greatest underdogs in sports. For Rulon Gardner, that moment came in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney. That year, all of the competitions’ gold medals were up for grabs, except for, of course, Men’s Greco-Roman wrestling. Russian favorite Aleksandr Karelin wasn’t just undefeated in 13 years of international competition—he hadn’t given up a single point in six previous years of wrestling.
When Gardner squared off with Karelin in the gold medal match, he was an implied underdog, given no chance. Nonetheless, Gardner shocked the world and beat the unbeatable champion, in what is widely considered the biggest upset in the history of the Olympics. Gardner kept the run going by taking gold at the 2001 World Championships, until a series of accidents and injuries derailed his wrestling career. He also ballooned to 474 pounds, but thanks to TV’s The Biggest Loser, Gardner was able to lose 173 of said pounds.Back to top