Wrestling With Weight Loss

Greco Roman wrestler Michael Beilin is aiming at a spot in his second Olympic games and in order to do so he needs to lose weight.

Greco Roman wrestler Michael Beilin is aiming at a spot in his second Olympic games and in order to do so he needs to lose weight. In December, Beilin will enter a clinic in the Russian city of Perm, where he will undergo a stomach cleanse that he hopes will cut three kilos of fat.

Like most senior Israeli wrestlers, Beilin took his first steps in the sport in the former Soviet Union - in Perm at the age of 8. In 1994, he came to Israel with his parents and Micahel Leshevski, an international wrestling referee, brought him to Hapoel Tel Aviv, where he was coached by Nick Zagrintzki.

Beilin competed in the 63-kilogram class and came in fourth at the World Championship in 1997. Two years later, in Athens, Beilin advanced one spot to claim the bronze medal and a spot at the Sydney Olympics.

From bronze at Athens, Beilin returned to the sports arena in Jaffa, which served not only as his training ground, but also as his home. His parents, who failed to find work in Israel, returned to Prem and at the age of 23 Beilin found himself on his own, maneuvering between the army and training for Sydney.

Beilin had high hopes for a medal, but a tough draw and a poor performance sent him back unrewarded, this time to a caravan at the Wingate Institute. By then, Beilin was spending more and more time in Prem. He began training with Boris Vinkerov, who was later named coach of the Israeli national team. In December 2001, he again took bronze at the World Championship, but that was his last bout in the 63-kilogram class.

The International Wrestling Federation FILA decided to add weight classes to Olympic women's wrestling and to cut the number of weight classes in men's wrestling from eight to seven. Yuri Yevseichik, who wrestled in Sydney in the 130-kilogram class, went down to 120 kilos and Beilin had the choice between wrestling in the 66-kilogram or the 60-kilogram class. Beilin went for the heavier weight and in April 2002 he again took bronze at the World Championship.

"At the time, wrestlers were having difficulty adjusting to their new weight classes and Beilin, who usually weighs around 69 kilos, was better prepared," says Leshevski.

Beilin returned to Israel with his medal, stayed three days and headed back to Perm. "I have a lot more training opponents there, as well as excellent coaches and a stronger tradition. Besides that, I'm closer to my parents and my girlfriend," Beilin explained at the time.

Later that year, Beilin missed out on the European Championship with a dislocated shoulder. However, he wasn't overly worried as the important competition from his point of view was the World Championship in Paris. But, while Gocha Tzitziashvili returned from Paris with a gold medal in the 84-kilogram class, Beilin lost both his opening bouts and was eliminated from the competition. His competitors, it seemed, had adjusted to their new weights.

The failure pushed Beilin into deciding to drop to the 60-kilo class and at 69 kilos - wrestlers normally weigh a couple of kilos over their competition weight and cut back their weight before tournaments - Beilin had nine kilos to lose before the European trials in Yugoslavia in February.

Earlier this week, Beilin contacted Leshevski to inform him that he currently weighs in at 67 kilos and his weight loss regime is going according to plan. Beilin is willing to undergo the unpleasantness of a stomach cleanse in order to make the Athens Olympics and he is also willing to put up with people claiming that once he has achieved his goal he will settle in Perm.

The chairman of the Israeli Wrestling Federation, Yaron Oded, defends Beilin's decision to spend most of his time in the remote Russian city. "Unlike most of the other wrestlers, Beilin doesn't have any family in Israel, but the reason he spends most of his time in Perm is that he has worthy sparring partners there. All of our top wrestlers train overseas. Tzitziashvili wouldn't have gone so far if he hadn't spent so much time with the Georgian team and Yevseichik trains in Ukraine."

Beilin and Yevseichik will train with Vinkerov in Ukraine ahead of the European trials on their way to perhaps their final chance to prove they can win an Olympic medal.