Inside news
Bernadette Graf makes silver comeback U70kg

Bernadette Graf makes silver comeback U70kg

2 Apr 2022 21:15 - Hans van Essen / judo news, results and photos

Austria celebrated two medals at the Grand Slam in Antalya on Saturday. The most remarkable was for Bernadette Graf back in U70kg. The 29-year-old stormed into the final on her comeback. She is 5-time European medal winner and three-time Olympian. She had fought in the class U78kg for the last five years, only had to admit a defeat in the final against 2019 world champion Marie Eve Gahie (FRA) with ippon (after tani-otoshi).

“Berni's performance today is really something to be proud of. She can be really satisfied with her performance, even if it just wasn't enough to win in the end," praised Austria’s head coach Yvonne Bönisch. "That should also give her a boost for the European Championships in April.

On her way to the final, Bernadette Graf prevailed against Miriam Butkereit, fifth place in the World Championships from Germany, and Maria Portela from Brazil, who was number one. Incidentally, the Brazilian-Austrian duel also happened when Graf last appeared in the U70kg category, at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. Even then, Graf had the upper hand.

Bernadette Graf: “After the long break, I tried to go into the competition as inexperienced as possible. I wanted to fight with as little pressure as possible, i.e. without my own expectations. That worked really well. I wasn't nervous at all even before the gold fight. Apart from the first scenes in the opening fight, I quickly found my rhythm on the mat.”

Yvonne Bönisch was visibly surprised by your performance. How much did you surprise yourself?

Graf: “Second place is really good. I couldn't have done much better in the -70 kg category. I now know very well that I am competitive. That's good, of course - and it wasn't to be expected in this form. But at the moment the annoyance of having let the final slip out of my hands almost prevails.”

How emotional was this comeback for you personally?

Graf: “The semi-final duel with Maria (Portela) was particularly emotional. The last time we fought each other was 6 years ago, at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. We get along well, we've known each other for a really long time. Glad I was able to conquer one like her. This win means a lot to me. From then on I finally knew: I am fully competitive again up to 70 kg.”

How much is this success worth just a month before the European Championships in Sofia?

Graf: “This 2nd place shows that I don't have to worry and that our timetable for the European Championship is correct. We'll stay in Antalya until Saturday to train with other strong nations. We want to get the finishing touches for Sofia. In short: Judo is fun, I'm fine. Well, I think Sofia can come. But I will do it in a similar way as now before the Grand Slam tournament. What's possible, I don't really rack my brains about it. I'm just going to adapt to my opponents as best I can. In any case, the anticipation is great.”

Not many athletes step down in weight category. Barbara Timo went from U70kg to U63kg successfully and we all know the story of Olympic Champion U48kg Distria Krasniqi who is now back at her normal weight U52kg. 

"With Magdalena Krssakova (-63/JC Sirvan/W/seeded as number 7), a second Austrian made it into the final block and onto the podium after she beat Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard (CAN) with ippon. Bönisch: “Magdalena has been ill for three days, with a cold, had to get into the Golden Score three times and won twice. That's something to be proud of. The fight for bronze was also really good, after all, Magdalena had to catch up.” This means that it is 4: 1 for Krssakova in personal head-to-head – the Canadian only had the better end for herself at the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2021. “In terms of fighting, the performance was really great. Both medals shine - we can be really satisfied, the form is right," believes Yvonne Bönisch.

More judo info than you can analyse 24/7! Share your results with your judo network. Become an insider!