Olympic Champion and Wyoming Native Rulon
Afton, Wyoming native Rulon Gardner is best known for his stunning defeat of Russian Alexander Karelin in Greco-Roman wrestling to earn a gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. However, it was his victory against the winter elements that may have been his most important.
In February of 2002, Gardner went snowmobiling with friends in the rugged mountains surrounding Star Valley, Wyoming. After becoming separated from the group, Gardner tried desperately to work his way back to familiar terrain. Unfortunately, he twice plunged into the icy Salt River on his snowmobile. Too cold, and becoming disoriented, Gardner found a resting place and remained stranded all night. After 17 hours in temperatures that dropped to around -10°F in the surrounding Star Valley, he was rescued at 9 a.m. the following morning. His core body temperature was near 88°F and a saw had to be used to remove his boots. The result was severe frostbite on all of his toes.
The all-night ordeal cost Gardner his right middle toe. A picture of his feet 9 months after his frozen night in the Salt River Range can be viewed here. However, he is once again in training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado and has his sights set on the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. In October, Gardner graciously agreed to record a 30 second public service announcement (PSA) that is now being distributed across the United States. He wants to ensure that other people are prepared and educated about the dangers of winter weather. Three separate versions of the recording can be heard by clicking on the links below. One of the recordings was produced specifically for distribution in Wyoming.
WFO Riverton Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) Chris Jones would like to express his sincere thanks to Rulon for allowing us to use his voice to help promote winter safety. Thanks are also in order to fellow WCMs Susan Sanders of WFO Rapid City and Tom Magnuson of WFO Pueblo for their help, and to Kevin Lockhart of Clear Channel Radio in Colorado Springs who provided the studio time and facilities used for recording, free of charge.
For winter safety tips check out the links below.