Published Thursday 31 May 2012

Fighting through injury, a twenty-two year Auckland athlete has been selected to represent New Zealand in judo at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Moira de Villiers will compete in the U70kg women’s event in London.

A sternoclavicular (SC) injury in 2011 hindered the judoka’s chances in last year’s European season and a dislocated ring finger in the crucial semi-final round of the Commonwealth Championships in January 2012 almost ruled her out of contention.

In spite of the pain, de Villiers, who had been accepted to the the elite Olympic Training Centre in Paris, pushed on and won the event, ensuring her nomination to the Olympic Committee.

“It was sore but the adrenaline kept me going,” she said. “It was about mental ability and toughness and I wanted it so badly.

“I am so proud to be representing New Zealand and I just love hearing the national anthem. Especially when it means we’ve beat the Aussies….”

While de Villiers herself was delighted, her Olympic selection has been bitter-sweet. Her boyfriend and training partner Jason Koster (Christchurch, 29) suffered severe food poisoning the night before the Oceania Championships and in spite of finishing with a silver medal, had not done enough to earn his place in the team.

“It was just awful. He did amazingly and lasted the whole fight plus an extra three minutes. It came down to a decision between refs and he missed out,” she said of the incident. “He’s very happy for me and very supportive of me now as my training partner and boyfriend.”

De Villiers is originally from South Africa but has been living on Auckland’s North Shore since 2003. She’s heading for her first Olympic Games and is targeting a top ten finish.

She says as a non-funded athlete it’s been tough achieving her Olympic dream. “I work, train, sleep,” she said of the regime which keeps her overseas much of the year. “I miss my family.”

Moira was allocated the single Oceania Continental qualification spot for New Zealand.

With 14 weight classes contested by both men and women Judo is one of the most contested sports at the Olympic Games. It ranks second behind Athletics with 372 athletes competing. The sport first appeared on the Olympic Programme in Tokyo in 1964 and became a regular feature from 1972. New Zealand has sent fourteen Judo athletes, including five women, to Olympic Games. Brent Cooper fought for bronze at Seoul 1988 however New Zealand is yet to win an Olympic medal in Judo.