Pair's long, emotional journey for Judo medals

FAMILY PRIDE: Christchurch couple Moira de Villiers, left, and Jason Koster both won judo medals. They are with Koster’s young son, Sam.
FAMILY PRIDE: Christchurch couple Moira de Villiers, left, and Jason Koster both won judo medals. They are with Koster’s young son, Sam.

A Christchurch couple have proved their family's mettle with two medals in judo at the Commonwealth Games. MATT RICHENS reports.

Little Sam Koster likes Commonwealth Games medals but he would rather play trains with his father and stepmother.

The ''nearly 4''-year-old was not quite aware of the emotional rollercoaster dad Jason Koster and step-mum Moira de Villiers had been through on to win their medals at the weekend.

The Christchurch couple have sacrificed plenty to chase their judo dreams, including spending time - as little as possible - away from Sam.

While it was initially the disappointment of losing the gold medal match that brought de Villiers to tears on Saturday, it was for different reasons yesterday that Koster welled up.

He missed out on his 2012 Olympic dream after contracting a stomach bug the night before his final qualifying bout. He still went to London but as de Villiers' coach - but it was not the same.

Both are desperate to get to Rio in 2016 and Koster's bronze is an indication he is on the right track.

Koster's only loss of the meet was to Scottish superstar and World Cup winner Euan Burton and even that was in a close bout.

Koster has been through plenty in the past year and while he stoically stayed the course of  his judo dream,the emotion of it all caught up with him yesterday.  ''It means a lot to me,'' he said.

 ''This tournament was always for my family and friends.

''We've lost a few people over the last six to 12 months from the judo community. On a personal note, I lost one of my best friends, Johnny, he took his own life in November. Prior to that we lost a young 15-year-old to cancer.''

The New Zealand judo community also lost Alister Leat, older brother of Glasgow silver medallist Adrian, to suicide in February.

''The fact that we've got all these people back home who are wanting us to do our best just to give them a glimmer of something. It means a lot to be able to do that.''

Being able to do it all in front of his parents, Rob and Karen, made it even more special for Koster, a three-time Oceania champion who took up judo 24 years ago.

''This is the first time my parents have seen me fight outside of New Zealand,'' he said.

''And a Christchurch couple, Andrea and Shaun Eden, made it happen. We were fundraising to try and get them over here, and they paid for it. They're amazing. People have just been so good to us, people we know and people we hardly know.

''Even work; I work at Snap Fitness and Moira works at Specsavers and they've both just been amazing.''

For all of those reasons, Koster was as motivated as possible before yesterday's competition  but it might have been one more thing that gave him the edge.

''When Moira got home [Saturday], she offered to show me her medal and I just said: No, I don't want to see it; I'm going to get my own tomorrow.''

And so he did.

Koster was not the only Kiwi to medal on the final day of the judo - Auckland's Tim Slyfield grabbed bronze in the same under-100kg weight class. But the pair have very different paths in front of them.

Koster, like de Villiers, is full-speed ahead to Rio while Slyfield, who doubles as the sport's high performance manager, has ended his career.   It is his third retirement but the 39-year-old insisted it would be his last.

He came out of retirement in 2002 to win a bronze at the Manchester Commonwealth Games,  then again for Glasgow.

New Zealand won five medals on the judo mat in Glasgow, two silvers (de Villiers and Leat) and three bronzes (Koster, Slyfield and Darcina Manuel).