Yvonne Snir-Bönisch: “It would be wrong to leave now”

There’s one thing you need to know about Austria’s judoka: They may be among the more successful domestic summer athletes – but they usually don’t show that in the first competitions of the season. This year it’s different. Completely different.

At the first two European Open tournaments in Györ and most recently in Warsaw, there were seven finals by six different athletes.

However, the responsibility for this is not the first red-white-red mat guard around the Olympic medalists Michaela Polleres and Shamil Borchashvili, but fighters from the second row. “It’s now really starting to take effect,” says Martin Poiger, President of the Austrian Judo Association (ÖJV), meaning that he was the first Olympic summer sports association to move its federal base to Linz in 2020.

There is a “broad growth” in top domestic judo, which is fueling anticipation for the Grand Prix, which will take place from March 8th to 10th in the Tips Arena. There, 34 Austrians, including nine from Upper Austria, will compete for Olympic points with – as of yesterday – 510 athletes from 79 nations. A quota that is only possible for home tournaments of this size.

Before your own plan

“An essential building block of success,” explains Poiger, “is Yvonne Snir-Bönisch.” The German Olympic champion, who has been team boss since 2021, was extended yesterday until after the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Other nations, including her homeland, have already put out feelers for the 43-year-old.

Snir-Bönisch is a pragmatist, not a romantic. According to the Potsdam native, the extension has nothing to do with the city of Linz itself, but rather with the opportunities created here. “Partial centralization plays into our hands,” she points out the successes mentioned at the beginning. The top team also contributed a Grand Slam title through Lubyana Piovesana in Baku a week and a half ago.

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Austria would currently qualify for Paris in five weight classes, plus the mixed team. “Just a year ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible that this would happen in mixed doubles,” Snir-Bönisch originally said 2028 was a realistic goal. After the two Tokyo medals, the bar is high for this season, but the development is nonetheless obvious. Snir-Bönisch knows that too: “It would be wrong to leave now when you can reap the fruits now. We are not yet where we belong,” she says, wanting to lead Austria into the top ten nations in the world.

A “handful” of medals

A claim that needs to be substantiated at the home Grand Prix. Last year there were two podium places with Shamil Borchashvili (1st) and Thomas Scharfetter (3rd). “Back then, two of our top athletes, Michi (Polleres; note) and Aaron (Fara), were missing, but this year we have everyone there. So two medals wouldn’t be unreasonable – a handful like that wouldn’t be wrong,” says Snir-Bönisch Team’s duty.

At the premiere last year, the event, which was budgeted at 1.1 million euros, had a loss of around 170,000 euros, which the association covered. This year we want to get closer to the “red zero,” says Poiger, who can count on the city of Linz for the first time. In contrast to last year, the Tips Arena will be made available to the organizers free of charge this time.

The President described it as regrettable that there were no parking spaces available around the stadium due to the LASK – Salzburg football match on Saturday.

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Reinhold Pühringer

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Reinhold Pühringer

Reinhold Pühringer

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