Even after he built his gym, even after he married Kamie—whom he calls "the most beautiful woman I've ever known"—he felt adrift.
"Why?" one of The Biggest Loser trainers, Brett Hoebel, asked him.
"Look at me," Gardner shouted. He had ballooned to 474 pounds—210 more than his weight in Athens.
At first the show's producers were skeptical of Gardner's commitment to losing weight; after all, he had his own gym and he wasn't using it. They put him through 2½ months of interviews and auditions, alone and with other hopefuls. At one point Gardner was ready to walk away. But, in the end, the producers took him on.
Through 11 weeks on the show—contestants are sequestered without cellphones, Internet or newspapers—Gardner has lost almost 139 pounds. He admits he has neither played the show's game especially well nor interacted much with the other contestants. ("I'm not here to be social," he says.) But that's not the point.
"I didn't come here to win The Biggest Loser," he says. "Sure, I'd like to win. I'm a competitor. But I came here... . Well, you know I've almost died so many times that I started to think I couldn't die."
Rulon Gardner smiles as he munches on his apple slice. "I want to live," he says.
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