The 33-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler is in Athens and will begin defending his Olympic superheavyweight title on Aug. 23.
SI: Have you had any of the following yet: gyros, souvlaki or ouzo?
Gardner: Ouzo, no. The other two, yes. I did have one bite of cow stomach the other day. It was good, but it was cow stomach.
SI: What did you think Athens would be like?
Gardner: I was here in '99 and '01 and I expected it to be the same. Everybody was saying how bad it was going to be and how it wasn't organized, and I kind of expected that. But the people have changed this country overnight. If you look at everything they've had to do in the last five or six years, it is a miracle that they are ready.
SI: You were married last month, and your wife, Lisa, will be in Athens along with 15 other members of your family. What would it be like if I sat in the Gardner section during one of your matches?
Gardner: You'd feel scared and loved at the same time.
SI: Which pro athlete would make a good wrestler?
Gardner: Karl Malone. He's tall and powerful. And I'm good friends with Larry Walker, who is a big guy and has a little meanness to him. We've wrestled a few times and I've put him in a few front headlocks. At that point he didn't respond very much.
SI: You're retiring after these Games. Will you leave your shoes on the mat after your final match?
Gardner: That's what I plan on doing.
SI: When it comes to everyday life, what's the biggest advantage of being 264 pounds?
Gardner: People move out of your way when you are coming through. And you can go to the buffet line and really handle yourself.
SI: On Feb. 14, 2002, your snowmobile dropped into a Wyoming lake, and you were stranded for 17 hours in subzero conditions. You keep the amputated middle toe from your right foot in a jar of formaldehyde in your fridge. Do you recommend refrigerating any other body parts?
Gardner: Not really [laughs]. But it is hot in Athens and you will need an air conditioner. --Richard Deitsch
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