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Wrestling Star Has Toe Amputated

March 28, 2002

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ Olympic wrestling champion Rulon Gardner’s frostbite-damaged toe was amputated Thursday, six weeks after he was stranded overnight in the Wyoming backcountry.

Doctors at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls said they removed the middle toe from Gardner’s right foot and are optimistic he will not lose any more toes.

A local anesthetic was used and Gardner remained awake for the operation, during which doctors also removed three pins that were placed in his left foot during a skin graft March 19.

Dr. Timothy Thurman said Gardner’s left foot was ``looking good″ and he was not expected to stay at the hospital overnight.

It remained uncertain how the loss of the toe will affect Gardner’s career.

Gardner, 30, is the Greco-Roman world heavyweight champion. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he beat Alexander Karelin, the Russian star who had not lost an international match in 13 years.

Gardner was stranded in the woods Feb. 14 when his snowmobile bogged down near his hometown of Afton. He spent 17 hours outside in temperatures that dipped to 25 below zero and was found with a body temperature of 88 and his feet frozen.

Gardner was released from the hospital Feb. 28 but has been back several times for treatments, including time in a hyperbaric chamber to speed healing by breathing pure oxygen.

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