NZ wrestling coach Mark Grayling off to Rio

By Peter White

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DEDICATED: Mount Maunganui and New Zealand wrestling coach Mark Grayling, right, watches Tayla Ford at the Africa/Oceania Qualifying event in Algeria in April. PHOTO/SUPPLIED 310716sp20
DEDICATED: Mount Maunganui and New Zealand wrestling coach Mark Grayling, right, watches Tayla Ford at the Africa/Oceania Qualifying event in Algeria in April. PHOTO/SUPPLIED 310716sp20

New Zealand wrestling coach Mark Grayling thought his goal of going to the Rio Olympics was over.

But the wrestling guru from Katikati, who is also president of the Mount Maunganui Wrestling Club, leaves for Rio tomorrow for Rio with the 66kg class Greco-Roman wrestler Craig Miller.

Auckland-based Miller just missed out for Rio originally after finishing third in the Africa/Oceania Qualifying event in Algeria in April, where the top two qualified.

But after second-placed Australian wrestler Vinod Kumar was disqualified for using performance enhancing drugs Miller takes his place in Rio.

It came as no surprise to Grayling and the other New Zealand officials that Kumar was found guilty and banned for four years.

"As Craig came off the mat we commented that he still had a chance because that guy (Kumar) will probably get done for drugs," Grayling said.

"It was kind of the standing joke afterwards at that tournament.

"His physique and how naive we thought he was about nutrition and what it takes to be an international sportsman sort of gave it away."

Grayling was particularly disappointed that the other wrestler he took to the Africa/Oceania Qualifying event in Algeria to just miss out was Tayla Ford from his Mount Maunganui club.

"We had her training for about three months before then in Sweden to get some decent competition.

"She was going really good and really lifting her level to international and got over there and the way the draw worked out she got beaten by the gold medallist and didn't get to wrestle the silver medallist who was on the other side of the draw.

"So although she got third I think she could have beaten the silver medallist. She beat everyone else but once you lose one at those qualifying events you are not going to Rio."
Ford is just 22 so in top level international wrestling terms she is still on the way up.

Grayling sees her as a serious medal prospect for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"She was beaten by 29 and 32 year-olds at qualifying events this year who are a lot older," he said.

"Female wrestlers are peaking later now. It is just the way it is working out.

"Tokyo was always the goal. We used this as a stepping stone to higher things in Tokyo."
Grayling can't wait to get to Rio and mix with the sport's elite.

"I just love getting on the side of the mat on competition day but it will also be good to rub shoulders with some of the coaching staff in the top echelon of the sport and share training ideas with.

"Valerie Adams is one of my favourites after we sat together on a train trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal at the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010. She was awesome to talk to.

"I also do some wrestling coaching with New Zealand Sevens teams through Titch (Sir Gordon Tietjens) and their trainers so I am looking forward to seeing them in action."

Coming up: New Zealand Club Championships, Katikati, August 21.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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