SUNDERLAND sambo wrestler Barry Gibson is heading for Russia, after being selected for the Great Britain team for the World Championships.
Gibson, who runs the Grapplefit gym in Carley Hill, earned his place in Team GB with two silver medals recently, first at the British Open in Bedford and then at the Scottish Open.
That success has given him the opportunity to brave the St Petersburg winter in November, as he competes in a World Championships for a third time – the heavyweight wrestler was also part of the British team in Lithuania in 2011, and Belarus last year.
After first round defeats in both previous tournaments, Gibson is hoping to go at least one better this time.
But his Russian adventure won’t be finishing there; he is also one of a select number of grapplers who will be afforded the opportunity to train in Moscow with some of the sport’s greats.
“The British Sambo Federation has been given the chance to train at a centre for excellence in Moscow,” Gibson told the Echo.
“It’s all as part of our preparations for the Presidents Cup in London next year. That will be a huge event for sambo in Britain, and it will have David Cameron and Vladimir Putin presiding over it.”
Having two world leaders at the event will certainly provide a boost for the sport, which is hoping to gain Olympic status in the near future.
Developed by the Soviet Red Army in the 1920s as a way of merging some of the most effective martial art styles, the sports popularity is continuing to grow.
Gibson admits, though, that he is not perfectly placed to capitalise on the situation: “I’ll be 39 this year, so I’m at the wrong end of things really.
“Most of the top guys now who are competing on the world stage are in their early to mid-20s, whereas next year might be my last.”
He is understandably optimistic for the future of the sport, however, with progress being made here on Wearside as well as worldwide.
“I now run classes twice a week in my gym, and there’s another gym here in Sunderland that also has people training.
“I think it’s partly down to things like MMA [Mixed Martial Arts] becoming more popular. The kind of throws and takedowns that we use in sambo lend themselves really well to MMA so that seems to be attracting more people than it did previously.”
Gibson’s work as a strength and conditioning coach has seen him train MMA fighters Ross Pearson, Phil Defries and Colin Fletcher.