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June 10, 2021 12:13 pm
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Judoka Who Fled Iran Over Discrimination of Athletes From Israel Wins Match Against Israeli Opponent

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Judoka Saeid Mollaei, left, walking forward to shake hands with Israeli judoka Yaacov Gemer following their match at the World Judo Championships. Photo: Screenshot

Judoka Saeid Mollaei, who left Iran after being forced to forfeit a match in order to avoid going head-to-head with an athlete from Israel, finally competed against an Israeli on Wednesday — and won.

Mollaei, now competing for Mongolia, faced Israeli judoka Din Yaacov Gemer in the under 81-kilogram category at the World Judo Championships in Hungary.

Mollaei revealed that Iranian officials ordered him to throw a match at the 2019 World Judo Championships in Tokyo to avoid potentially being paired with Israeli judoka and world champion Sagi Muki. The Israeli athlete went on to win the gold medal in the competition. Afterwards Mollaei refused to return to Iran and instead sought asylum in Germany. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last year approved his switch to compete for Mongolia and ruled that the change did not require permission from Iranian Olympic officials, because Mollaei was technically a refugee.

In February, Mollaei traveled to Israel to compete in the International Judo Federation’s Tel Aviv Grand Slam, where he won the silver medal. He told reporters after the match “Israeli people (are) very friendly, and have a good heart.”

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The International Judo Federation issued in April a four-year ban against the Iranian Judo Federation because of its discrimination against Israeli athletes, but the ban was overturned in March by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Watch Saeid Mollaei face Din Yaacov Gemer at the World Judo Championships in the video below.

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