Iranian Saeid Mollaei dedicated his silver medal to Israel after finishing second in the Olympics judo event Tuesday behind Takanori Nagase of Japan.
Mollaei, who now competes for Mongolia, defected from his home country of Iran after his team coaches told him to purposely lose in his semifinals match of the 2019 World Judo Championships in order to avoid competing against Israel’s Sagi Muki, the Washington Examiner reported.
“Thank you to Israel for the good energy. This medal is dedicated also to Israel,” Mollaei told an Israeli Sports Channel, according to the Washington Examiner. “I hope the Israelis are happy with this win.” (RELATED: Fans Puzzled After Viral Video Of German Judo Star’s Bizarre Pre-Match Ritual)
Muki, who became close friends with Mollaei following the events of the 2019 championship, congratulated Mollaei on his win during a press conference, the outlet reported.
“I’m super happy for Saeid,” Muki said. “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.”
Seeing reports that ex-Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei dedicated his #Tokyo2020 silver medal to Israel.
Not sure where he said that. In the vid below, he says Israeli judoka Sagi Muki “is my brother, and brother means best friend, and I dedicate my medal to all my good friends”. https://t.co/Z8E1t08l3m
— Kian Sharifi (@KianSharifi) July 27, 2021
Mollaei also competed in the 2021 Grand Slam international judo competition held in Tel Aviv, and said that Israel’s team had “been very kind,” and “that is something [he] will never forget.”
Two athletes have refused to face Israel in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool failing to appear for his match against Israeli Tohar Butbul on Monday, and Algerian Fethi Nourine also refusing to appear for his match with Butbul, citing his support for Palestine as the reason, according to the Washington Examiner. (RELATED: The TV Ratings For The Opening Weekend Of The Olympics Tank)
“Obviously, the IOC is always concerned in these cases and is monitoring it very closely,” International Olympic Committee Director of Solidarity James Macleod said in a Tuesday statement about protests against Israeli athletes, according to the Washington Examiner. “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. 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,” Macleod added.