Virginia Gardner was born 5 minutes behind
her twin sister Ginger, prior to World War II. Virginia grew up
in Arizona and joined every activity throughout her high school
years. After high school, she joined the Church of the Latter Day
Saints (the Mormon Church) and became a Danforth Home Economics
Fellowship Winner for Arizona, working with the USDA to teach nutrition,
canning and sewing to homemakers. She met Reed Gardner and had nine
children. Rulon was her baby.
Life was not easy on the farm. Rulon fed cows
and had difficulty reading - his teachers did not think he could
graduate from high school, never mind college. Virginia, who was
a nurse, would come home at night and tutor Rulon late into the
night. Rulon, who was teased because of his size and learning difficulties,
was encouraged by Virginia to persist.
Rulon graduated from high school, then from
junior college, and finally from the University of Nebraska. Virginia
is most proud that every one of her children graduated from college
and several of them have advanced degrees.
When Rulon reached the Olympic final in Sydney,
he faced an opponent anyones mother would fear: Alexander
Karelin of Russia, undefeated in 14 years, whose signature move
was hoisting 286-pound opponents over his head and slamming them
head first into the mat. The only time he had wrestled Rulon, he
had done it three times, annihilating him 5-0.
Family members made Virginia promise to sit
on an inside seat so she couldnt run from the arena. From
there she witnessed one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history,
as Rulon won 1-0. Rulon won the gold medal, defying all expectation--as
he had all of his life. With the encouragement and support of his
For more information on Rulon and his
various death-defying feats since retiring from the sport of
wrestling, log on