SALT LAKE CITY — Mementos from the career of Olympic hero Rulon Gardner, including a USA Wrestling robe and a commemorative ring, will be auctioned off Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Among the items are dozens of medals the Greco-Roman wrestler won during his career, countless knives and watches and autographed jerseys from fellow sports stars such as Karl Malone and John Elway — whom he hobnobbed with after shocking the world and defeating Russian Alexander Karelin for gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
The auction of some of Gardner's most treasured items will seek to pay off debt in a $3.9 million bankruptcy case.
Gardner, 43, said the bankruptcy has been difficult to go through but it has he made him a wiser, better man. He and his wife live in Wyoming now, where Gardner works as a medical device sales rep.
"Before the Olympics in 2000, I didn't have any stuff," Gardner said. "Some of that stuff is really cool to have, but, at the end of the day, I have a great wife, and I have a chance to start my life over."
The bankruptcy was the latest in a string of challenges Gardner has faced.
He nearly died after a night stranded in the Wyoming wilderness with his snowmobile in 2002, losing a middle toe on his right foot to frostbite.
In 2007, he was involved in a plane crash where Gardner, a pilot and the pilot's brother plunged into Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border. They had to swim for an hour in 44-degree water to reach the shore, spending a night without fire or shelter before rescue.
In 2011, he participated in the reality TV show "The Biggest Loser," where he lost 200 pounds but failed in his attempt to qualify for the London Olympics.
Gardner's gold medal from the 2000 Olympics and bronze medal from the 2004 Olympics were sold last year by a trustee overseeing the items to a creditor who had given Gardner loans in the past. Gardner said he hopes to be able to buy them back one day.
Also, at the February 2013 auction, Gardner's Harley Davidson with a Sydney Olympic logo and signed by the grandson of Harley Davidson was sold.
More than 200 people are expected at this auction, said Rob Olson, the president of Erkelens & Olson auction house.
The gold ring is the signature item. On top, it has eight small diamonds around the Olympic rings with the letters, "Gold Winners 2000," written in a circle around it.
"It's a fantastic piece of history," Olson said. "The whole state, the whole country and half the world rooted for him."