Moira de Villiers is targeting a top-10 finish after being selected to represent New Zealand in judo at the London Olympics.
The 22-year-old South African-born Aucklander has fought through injury to be New Zealand's sole judo athlete in London, contesting the women's under-70kg event.
A sternoclavicular injury hindered the judoka's chances in last year's European season and a dislocated ring finger in the crucial semifinal round of the Commonwealth championships in January almost ruled her out of contention.
But de Villiers, who had been accepted to the elite Olympic Training Centre in Paris, pushed on and won the event, ensuring her nomination to the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
"It was sore, but the adrenaline kept me going,'' she said. ''It was about mental ability and toughness and I wanted it so badly," she said. "I'm so proud to be representing New Zealand and I just love hearing the national anthem, especially when it means we've [beaten] the Aussies.''
While de Villiers herself was delighted, her Olympic selection has been bitter-sweet. Boyfriend and training partner Jason Koster of Christchurch suffered severe food poisoning the night before the Oceania championships and despite finishing with a silver medal, he didn't do enough to earn his place in the team.
"It was just awful," de Villiers said. "He did amazingly and lasted the whole fight, plus an extra three minutes. It came down to a decision between refs and he missed out. He's very happy for me and very supportive of me now as my training partner and boyfriend."
De Villiers is originally from South Africa, but has lived on Auckland's North Shore since 2003. She's heading for her first Olympic Games, but as a non-funded athlete, it's been tough achieving her dream.
"I work, train, sleep,'' she said of the regime that keeps her overseas much of the year. ''I miss my family.''
She competed in World Cup, Grand Prix, Grand Slam, and world championships within the qualifying period, attaining a podium finish in one World Cup event and top-five finishes in two others.
With 14 weight classes contested by both men and women, judo is one of the most contested sports at the Olympic Games, second only behind athletics with 372 athletes competing. There are 21 currently entered in the women's under-70kg division.
New Zealand has sent 14 judo athletes, including five women, to Olympic Games. Brent Cooper fought for bronze at Seoul 1988, but New Zealand has yet to win an Olympic medal in judo.