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New Zealand judoka athletes (from left) Kody Andrews, Jason Koster, Elliott Connolly, Hayley Mackey, Moira de Villiers, and Qona Christie celebrate their selection for the Commonwealth Games.
New Zealand judo team for Commonwealth Games: Qona Christie (Women’s U57kg), Moira de Villiers (Women’s U78kg), Hayley Mackey (Women’s U78kg), Sydnee Andrews (Women’s +78kg), Elliott Connolly (Men’s U81kg), Jason Koster (Men’s U100kg), Kody Andrews (Men’s +100kg) )
Husband and wife judoka Jason Koster and Moira de Villiers are set to relive a dream as they head to their second Commonwealth Games together.
The Christchurch-based pair headline the seven judo athletes named to the New Zealand team on Friday for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July. The other five judoka include Qona Christie, Hayley Mackey, Sydnee Andrews, Elliott Connolly, and Kody Andrews.
De Villiers heads to the Games ranked second in the Commonwealth and in hot form, having won gold at the Tunis and Algiers Opens in early 2022.
She won silver at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she placed 17th.
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Her husband Koster also returns from Glasgow 2014, where he won bronze in the under 100kg category.
“It’s a dream come true,” de Villiers said.
“After having my daughter four years ago, it’s been a real goal to get back to the Commonwealth Games and I’ve got my eyes on gold this time.”
Sharing the experience with her husband would be extremely special, she said.
“We’ve been on this journey together for a really long time and it’s amazing to have my husband and coach right by my side.”
Koster first fought for New Zealand as a 17-year-old and will head to Birmingham aged 39.
“It’s been a long journey for me,” he said.
“The last 10 years has been full-on and I’m ready to finish what we started and to fight for gold. To literally do this alongside my wife is so special. I couldn’t ask for a better partner and I can’t wait for Birmingham 2022.”
Koster will be in demand in Birmingham. As well as competing he also coaches de Villiers, Mackey, Connolly, and Kody Andrews at Premiere Equipe Judo Club in Christchurch.
“To be taking a whole team is amazing. We only started this club four years ago and to now have five of us headed to Birmingham is fantastic. I don’t think I could have scripted a better end to my career.”
Commonwealth Games debutants Christie, Mackey and Sydnee Andrews round out the women’s team.
Christie, 23, from Wellington won gold at this year’s Sydney International Open, while the youngest squad member, Andrews, 19, from Gisborne, won bronze at the Prague Open in early 2022.
In the men’s division, Koster is joined by the first time Commonwealth Games athletes Connolly and Kody Andrews.
Connolly has just returned to New Zealand after training and honing his skills in France, where judo is popular.
His team-mate Andrews from Christchurch has enjoyed a recent return to international competition, finishing seventh at the Tunis Open, Algiers Open and Pan-American/Oceania Championships.
“This means a lot to me. I’ve been doing sport my whole life, to represent my country it’s amazing. It’s a moment that I’ll cherish forever,” Andrews said.
It’s the first-time judo athletes have been in any New Zealand Games team since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, with judo left off the program at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The athletes will train in New Zealand, Australia, and Europe prior to the Games.