By Robin Martin of RNZ
A tiny wrestling club in South Taranaki is nurturing future champions on an unusual piece of Olympic memorabilia that it uses on a weekly basis.
The Alton Olympic Wrestling Club used insider connections to secure a specialised wrestling mat used at the Sydney Olympics - at a price, mind.
The club was formed in 1946 and amalgamated with the nearby Manutahi club in the 1970s.
Founding member Doug Brunton, who was 10 at the time, said initially wrestlers met at the shed at Glenny's Transport.
The trucks were left outside and a big canvas tarp was thrown down and that was the mat.
Brunton said the 75-year-old club, which specialised in freestyle wrestling, had a proud history.
"I mean it ended up about three times the top club in New Zealand and that's counting the big cities and all. By the time I gave up we had already 17 wrestlers that had been overseas representing New Zealand in America, to Australia and over to Europe. They've been all around."
In 1947 the club moved to the Alton Centennial Hall, nestled a few kilometres off State Highway 3 between Patea and Hāwera.
The same tarp was used with sawdust thrown over the floorboards to soften landings.
The club trains at the hall to this day.
Taranaki used to have seven wrestling clubs and now has only three.
Brunton was at a loss to explain Alton's longevity.
"Well I don't know. It's ingrained, so I think it's just the families beforehand and all their kids carried on and, you know, it's embedded in us."
But it was also clear top coaches such as 1950 Empire Games gold medal winner Doug Mudgway and later internationally recognised coach Graham Campbell made Alton a magnet to wrestlers.
Life member Selwyn Metcalfe said he took a different path while on a wrestling tour of the United States.
"On that journey I shot up to Las Vegas and did my exams in refereeing and judging and the following year I was selected as New Zealand's referee judge for the Commonwealth Games wrestling at Edmonton. That was 1978."
Metcalfe officiated at three Commonwealth Games and helped organise wrestling at the Sydney Olympics.
That was where he nabbed the mat.
"I was aware that these mats were going to come up for sale through what I think was a Polish manufacturer, so I said we would like one and I said we'll take one at all costs. I didn't know how we were going to get it here or pay for it."
The mat cost the not inconsiderable sum of $20,000 - which the club paid for through baling hay and chopping firewood.
Another former national champion, Thomas Werder, has now taken on the coaching mantle at Alton.
He said kids come from miles around.
"They vary from pretty much Hāwera right through to nearly Waverley, down to the Whenuakura Bridge. Yeah they just keep showing up.
"Maybe it's that culture that Graham had here and we've carried on from what he's done.
"Yeah, don't know what it is? It must be something in the water."
Werder reckoned there could be some future champions among them.
Ruby Murdoch, 10, was thinking about where she could apply her wrestling skills.
"I've learned how to do new moves in wrestling and how to wrestle someone properly not just like wrestling my brothers at home."
Mum Kate was a fan too.
"To be honest it was down the road and it was a sport they could all do. And she's wrestled since she was three. We've got no barriers in our house anyway and she loves it. She really gets into it and it's actually been really good for her rugby."
Meanwhile, Selwyn Metcalfe said he would be keeping a close eye on competition at the Tokyo Olympics.
"The mats are still the same with the circle, the 12m circle and just watching the tactics and usually those events are really low scoring so the precision of movements is fascinating and you only have to win by one point. To be in that environment is something special. It's hard to explain."
The Tokyo Summer Games start on 23 July and run until 8 August.