Judo returns to play

With the world slowly returning to play, Judo has been at the forefront of restarting amidst the current pandemic and the International Judo Federation (IJF) have taken a number of steps to ensure tournaments can be run again in a safe, robust environment. That began this year with the World Masters held in Doha, Qatar, and will continue over the following weeks with tournaments across the world.

For Jason Koster and the New Zealand Judo athletes, they have been quite fortunate with the country’s management of COVID-19, which has meant we have been able to train without interruption for the past eight months.

“During the lockdown I set myself the goal of training every day and was able to perform to to three 30 minute sessions daily of either technique, strength or general fitness work. Throughout the lockdown we remained in touch with our Judo team and once we were given the ability to train again, we were sensible with our return to play and built back into it slowly before returning to full schedule after one month.”

The postponement of the Olympics also gave Jason a chance to re-establish his campaign.

“As this is my last run towards the Olympics, I viewed the lockdown and postponement of the games as a second chance and an opportunity to re-evaluate a number of my training protocols. I had a poor run of form at the start of 2020 losing six fights in a row across the European circuit and, upon reflection, I noted a number of errors I was making technically and psychologically. Since making the adjustments I feel that my Judo is the strongest it has been in a long time.”

Jason has been granted a dispensation to travel in March and will return to the IJF World Tour partaking in three events; two Grand Slam events in Tbilisi, Georgia and Antalya, Turkey, and the Continental Championships, which will be held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

“The protocol in place means that while I will be traveling to these countries, I will be staying inside the IJF bubble which consists of the hotel and competition venue only.  While it is nice to visit the sites at the countries we visit, I am traveling to fight and win, so the fact I will not be able to explore does not bother me.”

“My preparation has been good and we were even able to hold a training camp recently with a group from Auckland. It is always a tough ask competing with the world’s best at the IJF events but I am working hard and doing everything I can to get the results I know I am capable of.”

On returning to New Zealand, Jason will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in isolation.

“It is part of the journey and while it will be hard being away from my family for so long, they are extremely supportive, and knowing the sacrifices they are making makes it easy for me to stay focused and work hard towards my ultimate goal.”