As Jason Koster enters the final throes of his judo career, he sometimes wonders if he is chasing dreams or escaping demons.

Being a successful judoka is as much about mental agility as it is physical strength and technical accuracy. All the skill in the world means nothing, if you dont want it as much as the other person, the Christchurch athlete says.

And he has never wanted anything more in his 32 years than to compete at an Olympic Games.  Rio 2016 is his final shot.

Koster knows what its like to have dreams shatter before your eyes. In the hours before his final qualifying tournament for the London 2012 Olympics, he was struck hard by a stomach bug, and needless to say, didnt make the New Zealand team.

He got a taste of the Olympics, as the coach of his partner Moira de Villiers in London. And now with Rio now in his sights, he lives by the motto: Out-work everybody. You have to want it more. Coupled with your technical background, its what makes you win. Talent means nothing without the desire.

In a bout thats all over in the blink of an eye, staying strong in the last few minutes is crucial, as fatigue begins to set in. Its important as your body is naturally telling you to stop what youre doing, to stop putting yourself through this. You need to use this! You have to have self-belief, says Koster, who won bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the mens 100kg division.

When outside pressures come into play, Koster jots them all down on paper. In the centre, he boldly writes and circles JUST FIGHT!                          

Thousands of hours spent on the mat fine-tunes his accuracy; being precise in training is just as important as it is in competition. A mistake can result in injury; hes dislocated his elbow in the past. Im in the last run of my career I wont have another shot at an Olympics so everything needs to be perfect.

It can be difficult finding high-level training partners in a small country like New Zealand, so Koster is self-coached and self-motivated. In training, he examines and analyses different scenarios, and drills the solution repetitively until its boring.

He shrewdly studies his opponents, breaking down what they do. You have to be careful though if you do it too much, youll build up the athletes in your mind, he says.

Finding the right balance in life is key too. Koster admits its not easy juggling training and competing, with his career as a strength and conditioning coach, and with family (he has a young son, Sam).

But it is friends and family that drive him to succeed. The death of his best friend, Johnny, has made him a stronger person. Im not an army of one; I can only do what I do because I have so many friends and family supporting me, he says.

And hes also inspired by knowing he has a nation behind him too.

Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Judo
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