Leading North Canterbury wrestler Stephen Hill is living, eating and breathing wrestling in a remote Russian village in his bid for a place in the New Zealand's 2008 Olympic wrestling team. A national champion from New Zealand's top wrestling club at Rangiora, Hill describes his experiences.
Vladikavkaz is the best area in the world for wrestling, full stop. I thought this last time I was here, but now I know for sure.
I'm living, eating and breathing wrestling.
My coaches here have changed and refined my wrestling technique and I'm now starting to take a few points off my opponents.
This might not mean much to some of you but if you knew the standard here, then you would get the picture.
I am now training full-time.
Sessions consist: of two trainings a day, which are 2.5 hours each, mostly wrestling, with three sessions a week doing weights.
On Saturdays we do a run up the mountains and a work out with stretchy ropes and exercises called 'cross'. Sunday is a day of rest – and recovery.
Recently I wrestled Georgi Ketoev, who is ranked number two in Russia. I had a great underhook on him and somehow he leg-swept me and I ended up flat: on my chest on the mat. Now I know why he is ranked number two.
There are nine wrestling clubs here in Vladikavkaz. In our club half the members would win Commonwealth gold medals and the other half would get the silver and bronzes.
On a positive note, my coach said I'm like a drop of milk being put into a warm pot of cream heating up – some of the cream will attach to me. If I leave the pot and go to any other, I will rise to the top, no matter what. What great sayings the Russians have.
The past two weeks have seen me training at an exclusive training camp high in the Caucasus mountains, 40km from Vladikavkaz, in a small town called Faredon.
This is a fantastic facility privately owned by a former world and Olympic champion Russian wrestler.
The Complex consists of an accommodation block for 50 wrestlers and is about 1km away from a private wrestling gym with world class coaching and wrestling facilities.
To train here is by invitation only, and usually only the elite wrestlers of Eastern Europe ever get invited. So you could imagine I was delighted that, as a wrestler from far away North Canterbury, I was invited to train: with the world's best on a week long camp.
If I thought my previous wrestling schedule was tough, then was I in for a shock.
The days consisted of a 2km run up a hill and back before wrestling technical training and exercises, with sprint training at the end. All before breakfast!
After a rest we then have wrestling training or a 7km uphill cross-country run and exercises.
After lunch, we sleep for about two hours before evening wrestling training from 5:30pm till 7:45pm.
This repeats for six days with a, rest on Sunday.
Of the 33 wrestlers at the camp there were two Olympic champions, five world champions, countless European champions and me – from Kaiapoi.
After this camp I returned to town, tired and sore, but ecstatic over the invaluable experience gained.
I must have impressed the coaches because I was invited back the following week for another week-long camp, this time training with the Russian and Hungarian national wrestling teams. What an experience.
It's time for lunch now and then training once again.
So much wrestling to do, so little time.