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Austrian trailblazer Bernadette Graf retires

Austrian trailblazer Bernadette Graf retires

17 May 2023 19:55
Local Organising Committee

Austria’s Bernadette Graf has announced her retirement of judo. After 25 years of judo, 10 of them in the absolute world class her body simply cannot support her for top sports.

The Austrian explained: "My body, especially my back, can't keep up. Otherwise, the Olympic Games in Paris 2024 would have been my last big goal,” confesses Bernadette Graf. The 30-year-old 5-time European bronze medalist (4 x individual, 1 x mixed team) finished fifth in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. She will now start her professional career as a police officer in the Innsbruck from June.

Graf: “Judo was, is my life, I started when I was five and stayed” Graf invited everyone to her announcement: family, friends, fellow campaigners, colleagues, trainers, supervisors, sponsor partners, club and association representatives, National Olympic Committee. Even the local dojo in Innsbruck was too small for the purpose and she had to switch to the Tyrolean Chamber of Commerce.

She captured 11 World Cup level events, including a gold medal at the Grand Slam in Moscow in 2013 and her last World Tour gold was in 2019 in Tashkent, the city where she was in three finals. She won the home event in Oberwart twice in 2015 and 2019. Since the 2021 Olympic Games she only won one world level medal, silver in Antalya in 2022 U70kg. She debuted internationally 15 years before at the European Youth Olympic Days.

"Now is the ideal time for me, I successfully passed the police service examination last week. On June 1st, a new chapter in my life begins,” says Graf.

As a national team athlete her track record is more than impressive: 2 Olympic participations (2016 Rio - 5th place, Tokyo 2021), 7 World Championship participations (5th Astana/KAZ 2015), 5 EM bronze medals (4th x singles: Lisbon/POR 2021, Baku/AZE 2015, Montpellier/FRA 2014, Budapest/HUN 2013, 1 x mixed team: Minsk/BLR 2019), 1 Grand Slam success (Moscow/RUS 2013), 5 Grand -Prix victories (Taschkent/UZB 2019, Hohhot/CHN 2017, Düsseldorf/GER 2016, Ulaanbaatar/MGL 2015, Astana/KAZ 2014).

According to Berna she had three events that stood out. “My number one spot is the Rio 2016 Olympics. When I got on the mat in my first fight against local hero Maria Portela and freaked out at the packed arena, I was impressed. Such a noisy hall, you could say an international match atmosphere, plus the Olympic flair, that was clearly a goosebump moment - I had never experienced anything like it in my career. Of course it's a shame that I just missed out on a bronze medal in the end. The second best moment was the first medal at the 2013 European Championships in Budapest. I defeated the Swiss Juliane Robra in the fight for bronze. She had two shidos I think, I just one penalty. That tipped the scales in my favor at the time and I secured my first (international) medal in the general class. It wasn't a pretty fight at all - but it served the purpose. I would rank the Grand Prix victory in Düsseldorf 2016 in third place. I made my comeback six months after tearing the cruciate ligament in my knee. In Germany at that time all top athletes were at the start. I won every fight with ippon, prematurely, in the semifinals I defeated the Colombian Yuri Alvear with a stranglehold while standing, in the final Chizuru Arai/JPN, the Olympic champion in Tokyo, twice world champion, threw ura-nage ippon. Judo-wise it was a perfect day. And the hall was full there too, almost like in Rio.”

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