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Iranian defector Saeid Mollaei dedicated his silver medal judo win to Israel on Tuesday.
Now competing for Mongolia, Mollaei won his first Olympic medal in judo two years after leaving his home country of Iran. He defected after he said his national team coaches ordered him to lose in the semifinals of the 2019 World Championships so he would not have to compete with Israel’s Sagi Muki.
“Thank you to Israel for the good energy. This medal is dedicated also to Israel,” Mollaei told the Israeli Sports Channel. “I hope the Israelis are happy with this win.”
“Todah," he added — "thank you" in Hebrew.
Mollaei lost the gold to Takanori Nagase of Japan.
Muki congratulated Mollaei on his medal win. The two became friends after the incident at the 2019 championship.
“I’m super happy for Saeid,” Muki said during a press conference. “I know what he’s gone through and how much he wanted it. He’s a very close friend of mine, and I’m so happy that he succeeded in achieving his dream. He deserves it — his journey is incredibly inspiring.”
Several judoka have refused to face athletes from Israel in protest of its existence. Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool failed to appear for his match against Israeli Tohar Butbul on Monday. Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine cited his support for Palestine when he also refused to appear for his match with Butbul.
“Obviously, the IOC is always concerned in these cases and is monitoring it very closely,” said International Olympic Committee Director of Solidarity James Macleod in a Tuesday statement regarding the protests against Israeli athletes. “Clearly, if there are flagrant abuses of the Olympic Charter, the IOC will take all necessary measures in that respect.”
“The IOC is looking at every case that’s brought to us,” he said. “We will investigate anything that is raised to us, even from third parties. We will work with the national Olympic committees concerned, the international federations, etc., to respond to those on a case-by-case basis.”
Mollaei competed earlier in 2021 at the Grand Slam international judo competition in Tel Aviv, where he said Israel had been “very good to [him] since [he] arrived” and that the members of Israel's team had "been very kind."
He said, "That is something I will never forget.”
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Original Author: Matthew Miller
Original Location: Iranian defector Saeid Mollaei dedicates silver medal judo win to Israel