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Real Life

Husband and wife judo champions go for gold in Birmingham

Judo champions Jason and Moira are both chasing Commonwealth glory

By Kelly Bertrand
To say judo is life for Christchurch couple Jason and Moira Koster is most definitely an understatement. Currently, the husband- and-wife team are living, breathing and embodying their martial art as they head to Birmingham to compete for New Zealand at the Games – but if they're honest, they tell Woman's Day it's not too different from everyday life.
"Even our kids love judo – not that they have much of a choice," laughs Moira, 32, of four-year-old daughter Norah and Jason's son Sam, 11.
"It's definitely our family's passion and, of course, right now it's front and centre. But I love that the kids are getting to see us live our dream and our passion, and we can't wait for them to come over and watch us compete."
Adds Jason, 39, "We see it as a job, but like anyone, you need to make sure that it doesn't become your whole life. We have Thursday family date nights when we'll switch off the judo to just be Mum, Dad, Sam and Norah, and head out for ice cream and dinner – well, recently we've been having to watch our weight a bit!"
Kick butt, Mum and Dad! Kids Sam and Norah will be in Birmingham cheering the couple on.
Jason and Moira first met – you guessed it – at judo, after they both received scholarships to train in Paris in 2011.
"Moira had been there the year before with another Kiwi athlete, but he opted not to go back in 2011, so I headed over," Jason tells.
"I was with Sam's mother at the time, but we grew apart while I was away. Eventually, after being friends for a while, Moira and I found we were leaning on each other a lot more both personally and professionally, and we realised we wanted to be more than just friends."
Proud Cantabrian Jason managed to convince Aucklander Moira to shift south when they returned home and, in 2016, they tied the knot. "Our happily ever after," says Jason fondly. Then, four years ago, they welcomed budding judo star Norah.
Of course, the couple have weathered the inevitable ups and downs professional sport brings. They both represented NZ at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 (judo wasn't included in the 2018 Games but is now classed as a compulsory sport). Moira brought home silver and Jason bagged a bronze.
In this Games, both are gunning for gold and, for Jason, it's his last chance for Commonwealth glory as he'll be retiring after Birmingham.
"For Jason and I to be competing in these Games together is really special," smiles Moira. "We've done quite a few competitions together, but Jason just missed out on the Olympics in London 2012, although he came as my coach. We were in Glasgow together and then we both missed out on the Rio Olympics, and Jason just missed out on Tokyo by literally one fight. Sport can be cruel!"
Still, their love for it has never wavered and the couple own a judo training club, Premiere Equipe Judo, in Christchurch, which has seen five athletes qualify for the Kiwi Commonwealth Games team. Judo is a non-funded sport, which means Jason and Moira have to balance work and training, with Jason also running a personal training business, but they say it's just the nature of the beast.
And since returning to the sport after having Norah, Moira says she's super-proud of herself to be able to be both a mum and an athlete.
"You don't really know your own strength or potential until you become a mum," she tells. "That's the weirdest thing to say, but you have the lowest lows and the highest highs, and you have to put this baby before anything else. But then you realise just how hard you can push yourself – so much more than you've ever pushed yourself before – when you don't have a choice!"
Having been through some of the sport's biggest hurdles together, Team Koster, as the foursome have dubbed themselves, is looking forward to the kids joining Mum and Dad in Birmingham for the competition.
"We've always said our priority is our relationship and how we're being towards each other," says Jason. "When we get those difficult times, we're really good at dealing with them – whether the challenges are sport, family or relationship.
"We end up walking away from them better and stronger. I think we're getting better with age, actually!"
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  • undefined: Kelly Bertrand

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