8 March 2024


Linz Grand Prix 2024


A glance at the medal table brought back memories of last year, when Linz celebrated its World Tour comeback after an 18-year absence. After the first day of competition at the Upper Austria Judo Grand Prix in LINZ (AUT), judo superpower Japan set the tone with two victories and a second place. The Asians have travelled here with a team full of young, as yet unknown talents. Mitsuki KONDO, 19 (-48 kg), and Keita HADANO (-66), two years older, were in a class of their own in their first World Tour appearances and stormed to IJF World Tour gold. But the Europeans were also able to provide plenty of excitement.

Francisco GARRIGOS (ESP/-60), the current world champion and world number one, came to the TipsArena, saw and won. The 29-year-old Spaniard won his first world championship gold in Doha last May. Since then, he has continuously collected podium places and world ranking points. But “Fran” had to wait until today for his first victory as world champion.

“It wasn’t an easy day. Against Tornike Tsjakadoea (NED), it was only my third win in my seventh duel. And the final was also hard-fought: it was my fourth meeting against him, we know each other really well. I’ve now won for the fourth time, but it was really close again. I’m very happy to have finally won again after three third places in a row. I have to say, the atmosphere in Linz is really good, I enjoyed the day. I can already promise that I’ll be back next year.”

The victory of top seed Marica PERISIC (SRB/-57) also came as expected. The 24-year-old is ranked number nine in the world and won silver at the European Championships in Montpellier in November. “I usually get better and better the longer a match lasts,” said the Serbian, forcing a smile on her face. “But everything was different today. It was a new quality in terms of overcoming and having to go to my personal limits. I felt like I died a few times in the final. But when you win, it’s even better!”

Background: Marica Perisic had travelled to Upper Austria severely weakened. She had been suffering from a persistent flu infection for a fortnight. “I had a fever, was vomiting several times a day and was really weak at the end. I didn’t train much the last two weeks. But I still wanted to compete here. In an Olympic year, you try not to miss out any tournaments.”

Linz’s final against the Junior World Championship bronze medallist Julie Beurskens (NED) lasted an almost endless 7:55 minutes. The duel was a veritable firework display of throws and ground techniques. Dozens of armbars, sumi-gaeshi, juj-gatami, uchi-mata and uchi-gari attempts ultimately went unrewarded. Both fighters kept gasping for breath. “What can I say? I didn’t know how I was going to get through it,” gasped Marica Perisic after the award ceremony. “This victory, my third at World Tour level, certainly has a very special meaning for me. Now I know what I’m capable of, even if I don’t feel fit and out of shape. This is a very valuable experience for the next events in Tbilisi, the European Championships in Zagreb, the World Championships in Abu Dhabi and especially for the Olympic Games in Paris. I’ll be fit again and certainly in much better shape.” A message that shouldn’t exactly reassure her competitors…

Yes, we knew that Binta NDIAYE (SUI) was good for European and World Championship medals in the cadet and junior categories. The 19-year-old Swiss athlete has also finished on the podium several times at European Cup and European Open level. She has now made a new leap in performance in Linz. Ndiaye fought her way through to the final at the Upper Austria Grand Prix in Linz and won silver, her first World Tour medal. “I’ve been preparing for Linz for weeks with my coach, Tatsuto Shima from Japan. I knew that I was good for a medal, maybe even a win. I like finals, they suit me. The atmosphere is better, the attention is on one mat only, and the fights are usually harder,” smiles Binta, who took up judo more or less by chance as a child. “I was seven, went swimming and noticed that they were training judo in the next hall. That got me hooked. A year later, I stopped swimming and focussed entirely on judo.”

In the final against Larissa PIMENTA (BRA), who is six years older than her, the young Swiss showed her best side for about three minutes. “It was close and fun. I’m sure I’ll soon be good for a final win on the World Tour too.”

Linz and Grand Prix silver should only have been a stopover for the Swiss rider. “Ideally, I’ll now also make it onto the podium at the Grand Slam in Tbilisi (GEO). Linz was definitely worth the trip!”

Author: EJU Media