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Olympic Wrestlers Like Challenges


Rulon Gardner: Holds arms above head for four hours.

I spent some time this week chatting with Brad Vering, a former and possible future Olympic wrestler who coaches at American University. He was talking about the culture of wrestlers, saying "We try to challenge each other in all kinds of different ways, whether it's part of our training or whether it's just messing around."

If you want to hear an example of some of these "challenges," read on. I'll just let Brad tell the stories.

One time we were in Cuba. Our coach, Steve Fraser, who was our first Olympic champion in Greco, he's Mr. Tough Guy. You know, he's 50 years old now, but he goes with anyone in the room, whenever. He takes any challenge you throw his way. So he's making bets with all these guys on different trips. And so we're trying to challenge him, trying to make him do something to leave his comfort zone, trying to just test him. And so we're like we're not gonna challenge him, we're just gonna get him.

And so we were out on this little excursion, we had a day off in Cuba, and so we were at this place where this wall was kind of falling apart and we were kind of sitting there. We took these blocks that weren't too big, we took 'em and we put em in his book bag that he had to carry. Just enough to add maybe 10 or 15 pounds. And he was walking, and he's just SWEATING. You know, it's hot down there, but he's SWEATING, and everybody's just dying.

We get back to the hotel, he goes up to his room, and he's like kind of complaining on the way up: 'My KNEES are just....My BACK,' and all this stuff. He took the blocks out, had 'em in his room, but he never said a word to any of us. He came down to dinner, wasn't like 'Oh, you guys got me with those blocks, you knuckleheads,' or whatever. He didn't say a word. He just kept his cool.

You want to hear a funny challenge? He had a challenge for Rulon Gardner, to carry [MMA star] Matt Lindland. It was for, like, forever. They were five miles away from the hotel, they had to go down in the subway, get on the subway, go all the way back. They got off the subway, started walking up to the hotel, all these stairs and all this stuff. [Rulon] gets into the hotel, it was like $100 or $200 or something, and he's about to drop him, and [Fraser] goes, 'OH YOU'RE NOT TO YOUR ROOM YET.' So then he's got to carry him up the stairs to his room. Finally gets to the room, he's about to drop him again, he goes 'Oh you're not in your room yet.'

One time he bet Rulon....It's funny, I'm sorry, I'm giving you all these stories about Rulon because he's the only one that goes for 'em. But he bet Rulon on an eight-hour flight from Frankfurt back to the U.S. to hold his arms above his head. The whole flight. He made it for like four-and-a-half hours. The lady next to him felt so sorry for him, she was feeding him and all this stuff. It was great.

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 16, 2008; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  Olympics  
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