Judoka Moira de Villiers approaches every fight as if its her last.

In Olympic judo, every bout is a knock-out, so she knows she has to be mentally strong to stay in the game.

Your build-up to an Olympic event is four years, but a fight only lasts four minutes, so you have to really go for it you have to really want to win, says de Villiers, who represented New Zealand at the 2012 London Olympics.

While physical strength is a key component in judo controlling your opponent and enduring their attacks the mental toughness required is even more vital.

You need a balanced mental state. Not only do you need to have aggression, but you also need to be calm. The aggression will give you the ability to really go for your opponent, but if left unchecked it can cause mistakes. You also need to be calm enough to make quick, sound decisions.

De Villiers, a silver medallist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, works with a psychologist to strengthen her mental capacity.

At big events, she stands in a little tunnel before she enters competition, and uses that time to work on psyching herself up. She often uses the coffee filter technique ridding her mind of unnecessary thoughts before she walks into a fight.

She has three virtues which help her to succeed: belief that she can achieve; confidence in knowing that shes done the hard work; and joy. Its ultimately why you do the sport because you love it! she says.

To become physically strong, de Villiers divides her training time between the gym and the mat - working on strengthening the movement of her body in different angles, and resistance training.

With no other female judokas of her level to train with in New Zealand, she has to train with younger men.

Growing up in South Africa, de Villiers was a tomboy in school. She tried her hand at every sport going, but it was judo that ignited a spark. She was always competitive, wanting to beat up the boys, and eventually became the South African champion.

Today, she loves the team atmosphere and the people she meets through being involved in sport. Shes lived in New Zealand for the past 12 years, and thinks of herself as a Kiwi, having built strong friendships here.

And shes determined to strengthen the sport in New Zealand. While judo isnt a populist sport at home, she brings back knowledge from her overseas experiences to pass on to younger fighters. 

Its a weird thought to know you might be inspiring others, says de Villiers, who has never pictured herself as a role model. But I notice new fighters are always very nervous when theyre fighting me! Its awesome to think that I might be inspiring people. I want to help as many people as I can.


Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Moira Koster
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