Rochelle Coster blitzed to a share of the New Zealand 100m hurdles record during a breakthrough 2016 campaign. The Aucklander chats to Steve Landells about her rise and hopes for the future.
Watching the action movie Terminator 2 may seem an improbable starting point for an athletics journey.
Yet to New Zealand's top 100m hurdler Rochelle Coster it was watching the shapeshifting android assassin T-1000 in the iconic movie, which was the unusual inspiration for her involvement in the sport.
"It is not a story I tell too often, but I remember, aged eight or nine, watching the bad guy run really fast with what looked like good technique in Terminator 2," she says with a laugh. "I remember later going outside to the streets of Papatoetoe (in South Auckland) replicating the same movements. I later ran in primary school races and I thought, this is fun, I am good at it. I think I can make something of this and take this further."
Now aged 28 Rochelle has been good on her promise and earlier this year enjoyed the best season of her career as she matched Andrea Miller's New Zealand 100m hurdles record with 13.10 - just missing the Olympic B standard qualification mark by 0.05.
Clearly, it would seem, there is lot more to Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies than meets the eye.
Born in Christchurch, Rochelle's family relocated to South Auckland when she was aged just two. Yet some time after her first Terminator-inspired sprint experiences, she later joined the Pakuranga Athletics Club aged 11.
Initially turned off by the thought of trying all athletics events she quit after a year only to re-engage with the club once more aged 14. The second time around was to prove a far more positive experience.
"I went along again and discovered it was a lot more fun, there was a lot more freedom," she says. "I didn't want to run the 1500m (like she was made to do as an 11-year-old) and I liked the fact I could choose what event I wanted to do."
Training more seriously under the coaching of Paul Lothian she emerged as one of Auckland's best sprinters in her age group and in her senior year earned national honours striking 100m gold at the New Zealand Secondary Schools' Championships.
Yet in many ways it was her selection as part of the New Zealand squad to compete at the 2005 IAAF World Youth Championships -the biennial global under-18 event to be organised for the last time in Nairobi next year - which was to provide the most lasting memories of her teenage athletics career.
She failed to make it beyond the 100m heats in Marrakesh in Morocco but she is unequivocal about the value of the competition.
"It is sad to hear that the World Youths aren't going to be in the sport anymore," she explains. "The World Youths are what exposed me to the world of athletics and had it not been for that trip I may not still be in the sport. The opportunity to represent your country at such a young age cannot be undervalued."
In 2009 she cracked sub 12-seconds for the first time, recording a slick 11.86 before switching coaches to be guided for three seasons by Commonwealth Games decathlete Scott McLaren.
Tapping into the "mental side" of the sport a lot more aided her progress. She enjoyed a solid few seasons winning minor medals over 100m, 200m and long jump at the New Zealand Championships, but it was only after she moved to her current coach, Joe Hunter, in 2012 did she eventually find her true calling.
Injuries badly hampered her first two years under Hunter's tutelage. She broke a toe playing football in a corporate business tournament in Japan and faced nine months on the sidelines. She returned only to develop a stress fracture in her foot, which sidelined her for a further nine months.
Yet she refused to be beaten and in 2014 emerged a stronger, better athlete in a new event - the 100m hurdles. Rochelle had previously dabbled in the hurdles and won a national bronze medal in the event in 2012. Now with the support of her coach she was fully committed to the challenge.
"My flat speed was always quite good, but the opportunity to be a sprinter on the world stage and qualify for major events was pretty tough," says Rochelle, who competes in her trademark custom-made athletics kit. "I wouldn't say the hurdles standards are any easier, but adding a technical element allowed for more potential opportunities."
In 2014 she enjoyed a solid start to her new event running a solid PB of 13.55 to finish the year ranked second best 100m hurdler in New Zealand. The following year the former communications student built upon that posting a new lifetime best of 13.41 and qualified to compete at the World University Games in Korea - her first global event since the World Youth Championships some 10 years earlier.
In the winter of 2015 she returned to training but has adopted a fresh approach, which she believes has reaped rewards in 2016.
"I've really worked on my mental state," says Coster, who trains alongside New Zealand 110m hurdles record holder Josh Hawkins. "I always used to get myself fired up and excited ahead of a race," she says. "But I've finally discovered this is not a style which is going to help my performance. I've learned to be more calm and focused before a race. This is something we've been able to develop this season and I can count on one hand, the amount of times I've been nervous before a race."
Running at a higher level than ever before she blitzed to a personal best of 13.10 in the heats of the Australian Championships in Sydney in April to equal Andrea Miller's national record and also come within touching distance of the B standard for Rio.
Yet despite taking 0.13 from her previous best set when winning silver behind long-time rival and good friend Fiona Morrison at the New Zealand Championships in Dunedin the previous month - recording 13.10 was a "bittersweet" moment for the Mt Eden-based athlete.
"I was ecstatic but also a little frustrated at the same time," says Coster of the performance. "If I'd have run one hundredth quicker and held the record outright, I would have felt much better, but I'm always aiming to run faster."
Rochelle headed to Europe in an effort to crack the Olympic qualification time but, unfortunately, fell shy of her target. Racing ten times in five weeks her legal fastest time was 13.34, but she learned a lot from the experience.
"I've come back a more consistent hurdler," she says of her European adventure. "At times it was tough as I was racing a lot more than usual, but it was good to race against people I didn't know and I where I didn't have any idea of their pattern or race style. It was also nice to get to race some of the world's best such as Nia Ali (the Olympic 100m hurdles silver medallist)."
Looking ahead to the future, the 28-year-old Rochelle still has some big goals to realise. Running better than ever she is hoping to attain the qualification standard for the 2017 London World Championships. Yet perhaps a more realistic target is to make the team for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where she hopes to not only qualify, but make the final.
A relative newbie to the hurdles she still feels she is capable of technical improvements in future which could further trim her personal best time. Yet there is another factor which could bring about her improvement and that is her rivalry with New Zealand 100m hurdles champion Fiona Morrison.
The duo's absorbing battles provided one of the highlights of the New Zealand 2016 domestic season and Rochelle believes their rivalry could elevate them to new heights.
"I couldn't ask for more than to have someone the same speed as me," she says. "We get along great, but I believe we have really grown in the last couple of years. It is really nice to have someone with the same goals and to share the same journey."
With coach Hunter in her corner as the man to unlock her hurdles potential, she is confident the best is yet to come.
"Athletics has become a way of life for me, I have so much passion and love for the sport," she adds.
Yes, and perhaps none of it might have been possible without the help of Terminator 2.