Wrestler Tayla Ford goes from park to podium

But Rangiora champ now medallist in the sport

MATT RICHENS IN GLASGOW
Last updated 07:52 01/08/2014
KIWI PRIDE: NZ wrestlers Sam Belkin, left, and Tayla Ford celebrate with their Commonwealth Games bronze medals in Glasgow.
ROBERT KITCHIN/Fairfax NZ

KIWI PRIDE: NZ wrestlers Sam Belkin, left, and Tayla Ford celebrate with their Commonwealth Games bronze medals in Glasgow.

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It was only last year that wrestler Tayla Ford trained in a park with her father Pattrick and brother Alex.

Now she and training partner Sam Belkin, who both train at the Rangiora Wrestling Club, are Commonwealth Games bronze medallists.

Ford, 21, now has her sights set firmly on Rio and improving every step of the way while Belkin, who built towards his medal for 18 months, has only one thing on his mind, a break.

The pair are like brother and sister and couldn't have been prouder of each other.

They both lost to the eventual gold medal winner in their respective classes, but only narrowly then won their medals within minutes of each other.

Their medals were New Zealand's first on the wrestling mat since the Games were last in Scotland in 1986 while Ford became the first Kiwi women to stand on the wrestling dais. 

The good sign for Ford and the New Zealand grappling society is she is 100 per cent convinced she has room for ''a massive amount of improvement''.

She's tasted success in judo and rugby as well as wrestling. With the right training, her wrestling could blossom further and she's loving the sport now that once she loathed.

''Dad used to make us do it. I use to hate it, but I'm a bit happier with it now obviously, she laughed.

She hopes to now work with ex-pat Kiwi coach Murray Shore who runs a wrestling gym in Sweden. Ford spent time with him before Glasgow and that obviously worked.

''It would be great to train there and do some club meets in Sweden where it's a bigger sport. And there's a whole range of different girls to wrestle.

"That would help me so much because there'd be fast girls, short ones, strong ones, technical, defensive and attacking. That's the best way to learn; wrestling against the different types.''

New Zealand coach Mark Grayling, who helped get Ford out of the park and into the Rangiora gym with Belkin and Steve Hill who was to compete overnight, said she'd benefit hugely from wrestling more women.

''She trains with a lot of men and while that helps, it's different . . . women tend to be far more flexible so it's a very different style.''

Both are likely to push for Rio, but for now Belkin just needs time out, he said.

The bouncer at Christchurch bar Baretta, who finished fourth in the Greco-Roman competition at Delhi has mastered the free-style discipline as part of a frantic 18 month build-up.

''It's been an intense build-up,'' he said ''It started in South Africa then I had to go to American Samoa, then I trained in America, it'll be nice to go home and have a bit of a rest.''

He also went to Russia twice to help him change styles.

Belkin said he was in no state to think about Rio yet.

''I just need a break and to nurse my injuries,'' he said. ''I've got so many at the moment. I think I've got another four or fives years left in me if I look after myself.''

A fair amount of the pain he's feeling will be eased by the fact he's a Commonwealth Games medallist - not bad for a kid who only got into the sport because his mother told him he needed to lose weight.

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