After some great anticipation, we can officially say that the new addition to the IJF World Tour, the Upper Austria Grand Prix 2023, is about to be commence. Registered are 478 judoka from 75 nations travelling from across the globe to Linz to continue on their mission to claim those vital qualification points for the Olympic Games 2024.
For the Austrian Judo Federation, and European Judo there is a great deal of excitement having this three-day event taking place from the 25th-27th May, so close to home and within easy access for so many athletes. President of Judo Austria, Dr Martin POIGER is especially delighted to welcome delegations from around the world to his home,
It is a great honour to host a grand prix during the Olympic qualification period, in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria and one of the most dynamic cultural and sporting centres of Austria. With a tradition of successful international tournaments for many deviates and at various levels in Austria, we are now proud to be part of the IJF World Judo Tour. It is especially emotional that we return to the Leonding region, where our world renowned tournament was held from 1989 until 2005.
Many top names, including the world ranked number one Denis VIERU (MDA) will be in attendance but all eyes will naturally be focussed on the hosts. Unfortunately Michaela POLLERES, world ranked number three in the -70kg category who recently took bronze in the World Judo Championships in Doha will not be in the team due to injury. The Olympic silver medallist has continued to prove her calibre with an IJF Masters gold in December, and now a second world medal and will save herself for the IJF Masters in Budapest. In fact there was also focus on another, much newer member of Judo Austria, Lubjana PIOVESANA in the -63kg category. She debuted for her new nation this year and fought her way in to the bronze medal contest in her first senior world championships, leaving with a fifth place was an incredible achievement and no doubt there will be great expectation for her again this week.
As for the men, the world championships may not necessarily have represented them at their best given the previous results this year from the likes of Aaron FARA (-100kg) and Shamil BORCHASHVILI (-81kg) but the ‘other brother’, Wachid BORCHASHVILI has made a point that he also a force to be reckoned with in the same category, winning the Tbilisi Grand Slam and finishing 7th in Doha.
They may have the home soil advantage, but there will be plenty looking to be the first to take gold in this shiny new event, including Giovanna SCOCCIMARRO (GER) who is the current world vice-champion, rivalling Polleres.
A surprise for some may be that Lukas KRPALEK (CZE) who also took silver in Doha in the -100kg category is competing in the open weight class this weekend, a statement was made that he will look to qualify in both weight categories for the upcoming games in Paris which is no easy feat. As it stands he is #26 in the -100kg and #15 in the +100kg category. With world and Olympic titles in both, it will be interesting to see which he opts for in the end.
The live draw will take place at 14:00 local time and the three-day event will be found at JudoTV.com.
Author: Thea Cowen