It’s rare to find wrestlers in Hong Kong, let alone someone who shines in the sport. But 16-year-old Niklas Rauhut isn’t just good, he is a top wrestler in his age group: he won a regional competition in Baden-Wurttemberg, a state in southwest Germany, in January.
“I started wrestling when I was five years old,” Niklas said. “My father – and my entire family – are really passionate about wrestling.”
Unfortunately, because very few other people wrestle in Hong Kong, he had to put his training on hold when he moved to the city a year ago.
“Back in Germany, I had training sessions four or five times per week; even outside of training, most of my world revolved around wrestling,” Niklas said.
“I can’t wrestle in Hong Kong, though, because there are no training sessions for me to attend. It was very difficult to adjust and having to give up a sport that I love.”
Yet the German Swiss International School student won the Baden-Wurttemberg Championships even without training regularly, triumphing in the 92 kilogram category despite only weighing 82 kilos – a testament to his talent.
Niklas added that he was “clearly” able to beat his opponent Felix White, the reigning national youth champion.
So how did Niklas pull off this impressive feat?
“Fortunately, wrestling is a sport for which you never really forget the technique,” Niklas said.
“I do other things which are useful, such as weight training, endurance training, and analysing the techniques of other wrestlers, and I also play rugby.”
He also credits his father – who he said is the reason he got into the sport – for keeping his skills sharp.
“Back in Germany, my father was always motivating me and helped me out a lot, and here in Hong Kong he is basically the only person I can train with. He was, and still is, a very good wrestler, and I’ve learned so much from him.”
Niklas, who practises Greco-Roman style wrestling, also came second in the 92kg category at the German Youth National Championships, held April 13-15, after having spent nearly an entire year without proper coaching.
“GSIS let me fly back for two weeks to train for the competition, and that was the only real training I had,” Niklas said.
Niklas, whose ultimate goal is to compete in the Olympics, expressed frustration at the sport’s general lack of popularity, particularly in Hong Kong.
“It’s exhausting because you can’t earn a living just by wrestling – you need to have a separate job,” he said. “I’m doing this strictly because of my love for the sport and to make my dad, uncle, grandfather, and friends proud.”
Niklas said that one of the things he loves about wrestling is that it brings out his animalistic side: “Sometimes I feel like a monkey because of my speed, or like a lion because of my strength. Wrestling is a very primal sport.”
He added that the intensity of the sport requires him to eat a lot of carbohydrates as well as take caffeine tablets before matches. “[The sport] is very physically demanding,” Niklas said.
Niklas hopes that one day Hongkongers will eventually learn to appreciate his beloved sport. “It’s very popular in the US and certain parts of Europe; [as] other combat sports are getting more popular in Hong Kong, hopefully one day it will catch on here.”