Clinton Terry found his passion on a whim and the mats of his local dojo.
An attempt to escape the boredom of life in Featherston led him to the local wrestling gym in 1999. It didn't take long for him to fall in love with the sport. Determined to find success on the mats, he had plenty of doubters early on for one simple reason — Clinton Terry is blind.
"My vision is like looking through four layers of bubble wrap," Terry explains to the Herald on Sunday .
The 37-year-old suffered from Stevens-Johnson syndrome after an allergic reaction to penicillin when he was two years old. It's a rare disorder of the skin and mucus membranes, often beginning with flu-like symptoms, followed by a painful rash that spreads and blisters.
For Terry, most of his body was affected. Blistering on his eyes destroyed his corneas and tear ducts when he blinked and his skin was permanently damaged. He spent nine weeks in intensive care as a result of the syndrome, an experience he says was traumatic for his family.
"Luckily I don't have any memories of it, but the way it was described to me was it was like I had been held by the ankles and dipped in boiling water.
"There are a couple of flash dreams I have about being in machines and stuff, but I don't remember the pain. I think my mum got the worst end of it because she can remember what happened. I've got the physical results of it, but I can't remember all the pain and horribleness of it, which is probably very lucky."
Loss of sight is a rare complication of the syndrome. It can often cause problems with the eyes and impair vision, but loss of sight is among its most extreme complications.
Terry has never been one to be held back by being blind and his love of sport drove him to trying different codes before finally realising where his future lay.
"I've got three brothers and a sister. They are all younger than me, but every sport that they tried, I wanted to try.
"I tried soccer, cricket, rugby, but as a blind person, those sports weren't really suitable for me.
"When my brother took me down to the wrestling club and I found this sport where you got to grapple people and it was hands on, I was so excited. Here was a sport I could do; I'm not having to chase a little ball down a field."
After finding wrestling, Terry decided he wanted to become a New Zealand champion in the sport.
He knew it was going to take some work, starting in the sport at 62kg and unable to bench press an Olympic bar.
"I wasn't a natural athlete. I lost my first 40 fights without scoring a single point," he says.
"I was the token blind guy. People were like, 'oh, he's blind; it's so good he's giving it a go'. People didn't take me seriously."
In 2008, he claimed his first national title.
"It felt amazing. I had been telling everybody for a long time that I was going to be a national champion.
"At that stage, I had more doubters than believers, so it was awesome to finally achieve something I had been working so hard for.
"But I kept shifting the bar for myself. Once I won the national title, I said I would win the Oceania title. They said it wouldn't be doable as a blind person. Then I said I would qualify for the world champs. Every time it was a new bar, people were like, 'oh, I don't know if that's going to be possible'. I don't know whether it was because people didn't want me to get my hopes up and feel like I didn't achieve."
Terry went on to win 10 national titles and three Oceania Championships in wrestling, before venturing further into the world of grappling — joining Pedro Hernandes at Tu Kaha Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Auckland.
It was a new discipline, but Terry found similar success. Since taking up jiu-jitsu, he was won five national titles and several Pan Pacific Championships. Now, he has his sights set on becoming a world champion.
Terry hopes to travel to Las Vegas in August, crowd funding to help cover costs to get to the States for the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation World Masters.
"I've never done it to be better than other people or win more than other people, I've just done it to push myself.
"There are people who say I can't be a world champ in jiu-jitsu but I don't care what people say because I've proven that I can do stuff that people say I can't — so why would I care?
"It would be a cool way to round out my story."