Mittersill reaffirms reputation as number one training camp. EJU

The world's judo elite met for the 30th time in Mittersill (Austria) from 8 to 16 January. Judokas from 58 nations, including the entire Austrian Olympic Team of 90 athletes - including Tokyo medallists Michaela Polleres and Shamil Borchashvili - came to the small town.

"The interest is correspondingly high, especially in an Olympic year. Mittersill is the starting point for the countdown to Olympic qualification and the Olympic Games in Paris. This year we have no less than nine Olympic champions from Tokyo and four current world champions in Doha. The quality and quantity could not be better," stressed ÖJV Sport Director Markus Moser and local organiser Ali Gmeiner. 

"The reputation of being the number one among all training camp is no coincidence. The number of participants is always between 900 and 1,100, and most of the top stars have long been regular guests for a long time, both coaches and athletes. This year we have 22 Olympic champions in Mittersill, including 6 coaches," says Yvonne Snir-Bonisch, the head coach of Judo Austria. 

During the camp, the world's best were treated to a breathtaking view over the mountain ridges. European Champion, Andreja Leski from Slovenia, Austrians Aaron Fara, Michaela Polleres and Magdalena Krssakova, double world champion Barbara Matic (Croatia), Manuel Lombardo (Italy), Sami Shouchi (Belgium), Olympic and world champion, Rafaela Silva (Brazil) Hannah Martin (USA), who currently lives in Germany and David Garcia Torné (Spain) showed their skills in the high mountains of the Upper Pinzgau.

Barbara Matic from Croatia (left) and Rafaela Silva from Brazil (right). EJU
Barbara Matic from Croatia (left) and Rafaela Silva from Brazil (right). EJU

Two-time Olympic gold medallist, two-time world champion and three-time European champion Lukas Krpalek believes that this was his 17th time at the Mittersill camp. 

"Mittersill has always been tough. You come back from the Christmas and New Year holidays, which is a break, and then you meet the top elite and everyone wants to do randori sessions with you. It feels like the training camp is getting harder every year - it's less about the training camp and more about my age…," commented Krpalek, who will be competing in his third Olympic Games. 

Another Olympic champion, 30-year-old Takanori Nagase (81 kg) from Japan, had to travel around 11,000 kilometres to get to the Olympic training camp in Mittersill. He is the only judoka from Japan at the camp.

"I have an unbelievably large selection of randori partners here, in the category up to 81 kg, but also in the neighbouring weight classes. The aim is to familiarise myself as much as possible with the European fighting style. Mittersill is perfect for this. It's fun here, despite the effort. The heavier my opponents are and the more seriously they take the Randori sessions, the better. Paris is getting closer. I want to win my second gold medal, that's no secret. And that includes a few trips to Europe. My biggest opponents are the Europeans," Nagase told the EJU media.

Japan's Takanori Nagase at the Mittersill camp. EJU
Japan's Takanori Nagase at the Mittersill camp. EJU

"It doesn't surprise me that he makes the long journey to Mittersill. He is often in Europe to get used to the European fighting style. He wants to feel the European way of fighting, you can't simulate that in Tokyo," says Snir-Bonisch about Nagase. 

IJF President Marius Vizer was one of the guests at the camp. He entered the hall on 12 January and took the microphone to wish the athletes and coaches a happy and successful year. 

"Mittersill is the number one training camp in the world. I've been here many times, first as President of the European Judo Union and most recently in my role as president of the International Judo Federation. I was in Kitzbühel 30km away and came to congratulate the local organisers and the Austrian Judo Federation on the 30th anniversary of the Olympic Training Camp," said Vizer. 

The training camp ended on Tuesday, and the first results will be seen in the next few weeks. The first major tournament of the year starts on 26 January in Odivelas, Portugal, with a strong line-up including several world champions. Then, on 2 February the Paris Grand Slam 2024 will take place in the French capital, with most of the world's top judokas competing for their first major title of the year.