“It was an almost perfect day,” grins Miriam BUTKEREIT (GER/-70), beaming all over her face. “Yesterday I still had a sore throat and was worried that I might fall ill. But today everything was normal, it felt like it always does. I quickly found my rhythm. What’s more, there are a lot of Germans here. The Grand Slam in Paris has established itself as a kind of substitute for the (former) home Grand Slam in Düsseldorf. Everyone from my (training) team was there.” The 29-year-old – who competes for SV Halle and trains at the DJB national base in Cologne – still has her first Grand Slam gold medal dangling around her neck. The pride is written all over her face. She has already finished second five times, and now it was finally enough for her first victory.
On paper, you were the clear underdog in both the semi-final against two-time world champion Barbara MATIC (CRO) and the final against Marie Eve GAHIE (FRA), especially if you look at your head-to-head record against both of them: 0:5 against Matic, most recently a semi-final defeat at the end of January at the GP of Portugal in Odivelas, 1:7 against Gahie, most recently lost at the European Championships in Montpellier last November. Today, this Saturday, you turned the tables. Why did it work today of all days?
Miriam Butkereit: “I was very focussed in both fights, I knew, I absolutely wanted to win today. I actually fought Barbara (Matic) in exactly the same way as last week in Portugal, only this time she made the mistake (with two holds) and not me. That was different. I was really euphoric after this win…. Against Marie Eve (Gahie) I knew I had the whole arena, 12,000 spectators, against me. But I wanted to win here and that’s what I did (laughs).”
Gahie seemed surprised by your (strong) performance in the final. Is that true?
Butkereit: “The last time we fought, at the European Championships in Montpellier, I wasn’t in a good shape. She won very comfortably against me then. This time it was a re-match and I got my revenge. Yes, today was a very good day for me!”
What does this dream start mean for the 2024 Olympic season?
Butkereit: “I fought very confidently today – that’s what it means, no more, no less. The road to Paris is still very long. Our Olympic team won’t be formed until after the World Championships in May… My next assignment will be Tashkent in just under a month. I want to pick up where I left off today.”
Author: EJU Media