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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK

Melling wrestles for the cause

John Melling has warned he plans to put wrestling on the map for the British public this summer.

The English wrestler, who will be compete in the 66kg weight category at the Commonwealth Games, is the favourite to take gold.

And the 31-year-old, a relative unknown outside the sport, is determined to make people take notice of a sport he believes has been "misunderstood and overlooked".

He told BBC Sport Online: "When you mention wrestling everyone thinks you mean the World Wrestling Federation and the real theatrical stuff that goes on in the United States.

"But that's not what were about. Freestyle wrestling is about power, agility, speed and the use of the mind. It's a great sport that people should pay attention to."

"Just when I think my technique is in perfect condition, he surprises me"
John Melling on Daniel Igali

Part of the reason for Britain's lethargy, Melling believes, lies in the fact that there have been too few major winners from the home nations.

"That's what these Games are all about and it's up to us as athletes to make people stand up and take notice," he added.

The major obstacle that stands in the way is Canada, who won nine out of the 10 gold medals available at its last Games appearance eight years ago.

In Daniel Igali they have an Olympic champion, at the weight above Melling, and one of the world's best wrestlers at any category.

India and Nigeria look to be the other major force - the "unknown quantities" according to England's leading medal hope.

Melling, though, is under no illusions about who the star of the summer will be.

"Daniel (Igali) is a phenomenal athlete," he said of his training partner in Vancouver, Canada, where the pair have been based.

"He's powerful, has incredible speed and can catch me out. Just when I think my technique is in perfect condition, he surprises me."

Massive relief

Originally Melling and Igali were rivals for the same weight category but not this year after a revising of the weights.

Melling confessed: "It was a hell of a relief knowing I didn't have to take on Daniel."

The 31-year-old, originally from Leigh and currently finishing his psychology degree in Canada, believes he now has the bettering of his 66kg rivals in Manchester.

"The Indians are a slightly unknown force," he said.

"But my training in Canada alongside the likes of Daniel should hold me in good stead."

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