by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – Former Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei who has just won the Tokyo Olympics silver medal in the men’s 81-kilogram division said he is dedicating his win to Israel as well, the Times of Israel reports.
Now a Mongolian citizen, Mollaei left Iran two years ago, after his Iranian team coaches ordered him to lose in the 2019 World Championships semifinals: the national coaches did not want him to face Israel’s Sagi Muki in the final, ToI said. Mollaei moved to Germany and went on to obtain Mongolian citizenship.
Then, in February this year, Mollaei traveled to Tel Aviv to participate in the Grand Slam international judo competition, where he also won silver. Israel had been “very good to me since I arrived,” Mollaei told CNN at the time. The Israeli judo team members were “very kind,” Mollaei said. “That is something I will never forget.”
Following the highly controversial and publicized 2019 incident, Mollaei and Muki became friends, ToI reports. Moreover, they have encouraged each other in their athletic endeavors. Commenting on Mollaei’s 2021 win, Muki told Israeli reporters: “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.”
In his own statement about his Tokyo Olympics win, Mollaei told Israeli reporters: “Thank you to Israel for the good energy. This medal is dedicated also to Israel. I hope the Israelis are happy with this win.”
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