A Brilliant Career Ends
Finally, the impossible happened. Alexander Karelin lost a match. In one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history, American Rulon Gardner, a relative unknown, defeated Karelin 1-0 in the super-heavyweight finals at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. In overtime, Gardner was able to wiggle free of Karelin's grasp, avoiding the dreaded reverse body lift and scoring the first point against the Russian in a decade. It was enough for the gold medal. Karelin earned silver; Russia was devastated. "Karelin lost," the country's main sports newspaper said in a front-page column. "The great and unbeatable champion, who had never stood on the second step of the medals podium, ascended to it yesterday as to a gallows."
Alexander Karelin retired from wrestling in 2000 to devote himself full-time to his legislative responsibilities. He lives with his wife and three children in a mansion in Novobirsk, Siberia, his hometown. "Greco-Roman is an original Olympic sport," he once said. "I like the idea of being a classical man, of belonging to a classical tradition."