Day two in Linz brought some fantastic judo and a diverse set of podia, including a medal for Mexico, which, with Prisca Awaiti Alcaraz, just missed out at the world championships of a fortnight ago. In Austria she came through and proved her 5th place was no mistake and that her level has risen. Maria Perez also put Puerto Rico firmly on the medal table with her ascent to the final.

Moldova also rectified the loss of their world number one from day one, Denis Vieru, by taking both bronzes at -73kg, while the Moroccan team also continue to forge forward having been noticed in Doha when they took a mixed team 5th place. In Upper Austria that was converted into an individual 5th place for a member of that team, Doukkali, also at -73kg.

From left to right: Dr Martin Poiger, Vlad Marinescu and Markus Achleitner

During the break between the preliminaries and the final block, an opening ceremony took place, one with two distinct parts. First there were traditional welcome speeches from the host federation, the Upper Austrian Ministry of Sport and from the IJF.

Austrian federation President Dr Martin Poiger was first to welcome those present, “This is a very special moment. I am so happy and proud. On behalf of the federation I want to say that it’s really an historic moment. Many of you remember Leonding and Oberwart but now we are taking Austrian judo to the next level. I thank Mr Vizer for the support and the opportunity to hold the event here. It’s especially difficult times in the world and we continue to show peace and unity through our way.

I also thank the Upper Austria government for always being with us. Mr Manfred Reisinger, President of the Upper Austria Judo Federation has also been instrumental. The region’s 250 volunteers have been outstanding.” This moment brought great applause from the spectators. “Finally, I must thank all the delegations from the 72 countries who came here. We hope you enjoy the hospitality and I wish you all the best of luck.”

Minister for Sport, Markus Achleitner then took to the stage, “Dear athletes, we are back on the map as Upper Austria, a fascinating region and an important part of a country of sport. This is a power region for the economy and also a place to go for holidays, a most beautiful region. We are very proud to host over 480 athletes from all over the world and I want to thank all, both in front and behind the scenes. Thanks to Dr Martin Poiger for the best co-operation we ever had. We wish all athletes to enjoy both the competition and the area of Upper Austria.”

Mr Vlad Marinescu, Director General of the IJF, then addressed the arena, “Dear Markus, Martin, ladies and gentlemen, it is my absolute honour to speak on behalf of our IJF President on this occasion, for the opening of the first Upper Austria Grand Prix. Thanks go to the federation for the constant development and for their historical work, their Olympic medals in Tokyo and for gathering athletes from around the world to experience this place. This is a chance for young judoka to shine and we see them entering the final block each day. Thank you all for your work.

To conclude I would like to say that judo is an education and has values which we learn throughout our judo lives. With judo we respect one another and build bridges of peace, unity and solidarity all across the world. The whole world can watch all we are doing here live, via and this is also an innovation we are proud of. I wish a great show to all the spectators live and online.”

Sabrina Filzmoser

Following the speeches the Austrian national anthem and the IJF anthem were played, marking the second half of the ceremony. This was to pay tribute to an incredible athlete who made Linz the venue for her retirement. Sabrina Filzmoser fought in 4 Olympic Games, won two world medals, was twice European champion and recently, just a year ago, climbed to the summit of Everest, where she left her black belt as a symbol of the judo values reaching the top of the world.

A special highlights film was shown in the arena, noting 3 particularly important moments in Sabrina’s career. There was the moment she won world bronze in Tokyo 2010, throwing with o-uchi-gari against Lupetey (CUB) for the medal. Then there was an example of perfect timing, throwing Spanish judo hero Isabel Fernandez with uchi-mata in the final of the Lisbon European Championships. Last but not least was the 2011 European final against Monteiro (POR), only 5 days after losing her friend and teammate Claudia Heill: an emotional walk down memory lane.

Martin Poiger then spoke again about all Sabrina has given to Austrian judo, from her inspiration for the younger ones to her professionalism which never wavers. Sabrina was then presented with a large framed photograph from that Lisbon Europeans, her first gold at the continual flagship event. “Ludwig Paischer was fighting before me and won gold and then I did it too, so it was the first time ever for Austria to have two continental titles in one championship.”

Then followed the presentation of Sabrina’s 6th dan which was a complete surprise, “It is very special as in Austria it’s based on so much more than results. To be nominated and then presented with my new IJF grade is something I am already incredibly proud of. Thank you to both my team and the IJF for honouring me this way, said Sabsi.

“I’m not good at this kind of thing and if I talk too much I will be overwhelmed. I am proud of all my friends, the volunteers and the spectators. All of my club are here and are standing for me. 34 clubs from Upper Austria sent us their volunteers and this is wonderful. To organise an IJF event is a big challenge as the standard is always so high but we tried our best. From next year on we will really know all these details that we learned here and will make it even better again. Thank you to everyone, really.”

The final block was underway immediately after the ceremony, watched by an emotional retiree in the shape of Austria’s very own Sabrina Filzmoser.

See also