The 29-year-old Tyrolean has no fewer than five medals to her name (four in singles, one in mixed), but is now fighting again in the 70-kilo category, just like before Rio. In the very first competition in Turkey, she came second, surprising herself. The police student was absent from the presentation of the European Championship team on Friday in Vienna because of an important exam.
Daniel Allerstorfer is currently also a “lucky bag”. The heavyweight (+100) has lost ten kilos and, at 125 kilos, sees himself as a new fighter. “My body hasn’t quite adjusted to it yet. But I think it was the right decision,” said the Upper Austrian, who is hoping for more mobility and endurance on the final day.
Hopes rest on Saturday
While on Friday Austria will have three debutants at the European Championships, the following day will be a “super Saturday” for Austria. Because with Graf, Michaela Polleres, Magdalena Krssakova and Shamil Borchashvili, the four big ÖJV medal hopes are in action.
The Olympic silver medalist Polleres suffered a concussion in the run-up to the European Championship, but recovered well. “I got back into it carefully and I’m one hundred percent fit again,” assured the Lower Austrian, who was fighting like Graf in the 70-kilo class and number 3 seeded. In front of her are only world champion Barbara Matic and Dutchman Sanne Van Dijke, both of whom Polleres defeated at the Olympics in Tokyo.
Season highlights are yet to come
On the second day of the competition, the chance is greatest to do the same after more than 4,000 days of Filzmoser with EM gold. Since then, Austria has won ten European Championship medals, but no gold. “Since I’ve been in Austria, we’ve won silver and bronze at the Olympics, and bronze at both the World and European Championships. A European Championship title would be an ideal start to the season,” said head coach Yvonne Böhnisch, who will have a new national coach in Poland’s Robert Krawczyk from May and is hoping for a successful “gold mission”.
But Böhnisch also made it clear that the big highlights of the year are yet to come with the Olympic qualification and the World Championships. “Traditionally, the European Championship has a high status. However, we have geared the training towards our athletes getting in shape at the end of June, when the Olympic qualification for Paris begins. The absolute highlight of the season is the World Championships in Tashkent in October,” explained the 2004 Olympic champion.
“I’m ready for the first title”
Krssakova (-63 kg) starts the tournament as number four. After Silver 2020 in Prague, she wants precious metal again. The 28-year-old Viennese is convinced that “my shape curve is right”. Olympic bronze medalist Shamil Borchashvili (-81) is number six in his class and, unlike Polleres and Krssakova, is still waiting for an individual medal at the European Championships.
“I’ve certainly gotten even stronger since Tokyo, continued to improve my grip and attacking tactics. I’m definitely ready for the first title,” said the Welser confidently. A very big goal is of course to compete at the Olympics in 2024 together with brother Wachid (-90).
Heavy opening opponents
However, the draw for Austria’s athletes “definitely could have gone better,” said ÖJV head coach Yvonne Bönisch. “But we also take that as an incentive. If you go by the paper form, only Shamil (Borchashvili, note) and Daniel (Allerstorfer, note) actually have easy tasks,” says the 2004 Olympic champion.
Bochashvili is the clear favorite in his first fight: opponent Jose Maria Mendiola-Isquieta (ESP) is only number 80 in the world in the IJF ranking. Fortuna, the goddess of luck, was also kind to Allerstorfer, his first opponent is Vladut Simionescu. Bönisch: “The Romanian is seeded number five, but definitely a beatable opponent. It could have been a lot worse for Daniel.”
“Heavy chunk” for Polleres
Polleres, seeded number three, has to face the reigning junior world champion Ai Tsunoda Roustant (ESP) at the start. “It’s going to be a tough one,” Bönisch believes. After a bye in round two, Krssakova is likely to face ex-European champion Hedvig Karakas. The 32-year-old Hungarian has been active in the class up to 57 kg in recent years and is still a blank slate for Krssakova.
Athletes from Russia or Belarus are not at the European Championship (365 judoka from 40 nations) at the start. “They announced of their own accord that they would not be taking part for the time being for security reasons,” reported ÖJV President Martin Poiger, who is also Secretary General of the European Association. Poiger is enthusiastic about Sofia. “A great hall. I’m always very sad when you see how bad the sports infrastructure is in Austria.”