Without Israeli flags or anthem: 5 judokas from Jewish state win medals in Abu Dhabi

Ori Sasson, an Israeli judoka who won a medal in Rio last year, beat his Belgian opponent in Abu Dhabi, winning the bronze medal in the over-100 kg weight class. About an hour earlier, another Israeli judoka won the bronze medal in the under-100 kg weight class. Saturday’s wins bring Israel’s medal count in the United Arab Emirates to five.

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Israeli Olympic medalist Ori Sasson won the bronze medal in Abu Dhabi in the over-100 kg weight class on Saturday. About an hour earlier, Israeli judoka Peter Paltchik defeated his Hungarian opponent, winning the bronze medal in the under-100 kg weight class. The Israeli national team has claimed five medals in this prestigious tournament. Ahead of the event, the organizers in the United Arab Emirates announced that the athletes from the Jewish state would be banned from displaying any Israeli symbols, including the flag, during the competition.

With French judoka Teddy Riner not competing in the event, Sasson had a good shot at winning the gold medal in his weight class. However, he lost in the semifinals to his Polish opponent. During the crucial match afterward, he beat his Belgian opponent. Paltchik’s bronze medal is an impressive accomplishment, maybe even the highlight of his career so far. “I’m proud to represent my country, with or without the flag,” he said after his victory.

Israeli medalists and their coaches Photo Credit: Israel Judo Association/Channel 2 News

Oren Smadja, the head coach of the Israeli men’s national judo team, stated: “Israel’s men’s national judo team has become a superpower and is one of the best teams in the world.” When asked about the ban against Israeli symbols and the directive not to play the Israeli national anthem during the awards ceremony, Smadja said: “We are ambassadors of the State of Israel. Even without the flag on our backs, everyone knows who we are and the most important thing, where we came from. We will fight for the citizens of the State of Israel, for the flag, always. No one will break us.”

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