I was Gladiators’ biggest star – now I live in New Zealand and am fitter than ever at 70, says Wolf | The Sun

GLADIATORS superstar Wolf is still fighting fit 23 years after the original show came to an end.

Now 70, Michael Van Wijk pumps iron daily in New Zealand where he emigrated with his family 18 years ago.

The telly legend, whose bad boy persona quickly made him the stand-out character, is putting men half his age to shame with heavy lifting and exhausting sprints, and he insists he's in better condition now than he was on the programme in his 40s.

In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Michael said: "If anything I'm in better shape now than when I was doing Glads because I have more time to train.

"I'm still keeping fit. I was sprinting the other day: six 15 second sprints and walking for a minute in between. I don't know how many 70-year-olds are doing full speed sprinting on a running machine. I'm still lifting very heavy and enjoying my workouts."

Michael also loves swimming in the sea, which is a two minute walk from his holiday home – known as bach – in Auckland.


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He said: "It's very beautiful here. There's lots of palm trees. I'm at my bach [holiday house]. Everyone's dream in New Zealand is to have your home and a bach. They're quite standard, nothing flashy, butit's next to the beach.

"I come out my side gate and can see the water. Two minute walk to the water."

"It's lovely. Our home is 25 minutes away from the bach in the countryside. I normally come up here Friday, Saturday, Sunday."

The former gym owner has created a good life for himself and his family, working his way out of poverty to become a successful business owner and TV star.

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He says: "We're comfortable, we're not rich. I wish I was. I'd love to be rich but with all the kids at school and all the expenses, you never get rich. [laughs]."

Michael sold his four gyms in the UK to help fund his move to New Zealand where he opened two more.

He fell in love with the country after going on a month long holiday to visit friends in the early noughties and he hasn't looked back since.

It's a far cry from his own childhood that saw him go hungry and avoid birthday parties because his family couldn't afford to give his friends presents.

"I was the kid at school who couldn't afford shoes," he says. "I had to get them off the welfare. I was the kid at school who didn't have a school lunch. If it wasn't for the welfare giving us these little chits, which was quite embarrassing. When it got time to play, kids who couldn't afford their lunch put their chits in the box in front of all the other kids and they'd make fun of you.

"You'd see other kids at the tuck shop and you'd just walk past because you've got no money. I never went to one school birthday party. I was invited but I couldn't buy them a present. I'd have to make excuses up why I couldn't go and then hear all the other kids saying how good the party was.

"Or 'here's my new football boots'… and I got mine from the church jumble sale with newspaper stuffed in to make them fit with gaffer tape.

"You shrug your shoulders and accept the fact you're poor and have nothing. That was the best I could possibly have because it made me want the things I couldn't have."

By the time he impressed bosses in trials for Gladiators, Michael had already made it in life with a nice home that included an indoor swimming pool.

He never took his success for granted though, and it was made all the sweeter for the early struggles he had in life.

"It was awesome later on when I built everything up that I could give all the nice things and have all the nice things," he says. "All my kids have gone to private school. My son's just graduated from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) top uni in the world an I had to fund that for four years. It was lucky I was in the financial position to do that but I started from nothing. You couldn't get any poorer because I had nothing."

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