Iranian-German-Mongolian silver medal Olympian honors Israel

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics bizarrely rolls along in 2021 with unexpected wins, losses, and drop-outs plus other normal human quirks and unexpected snafus.  In addition to anthem-kneeling and flag-ignoring by some Americans, we saw that national political bigotry, involving the usual suspects, also overcame sports.

Two judokas from two different Muslim-dominated nations, Sudan and Algeria, refused to compete against...awww, you Israeli opponent.  As the AP reports:

Algeria's Fetih Nourine withdrew from the Games on Saturday when he learned he would meet Butbul if he advanced to the second round Monday, explicitly citing his support for Palestinians for his decision.

On Monday, Sudan's Mohamed Abdalrasool didn't show up to face Butbul in their round of 32 bout despite weighing in earlier.

Abdalrasool didn't make a public statement about his decision, but Butbul said his team was told Abdalrasool had a shoulder injury — a reason that didn't exactly convince Butbul or the Israeli team.

To their credit, the International Judo Federation suspended not only the racist competitors but also their bigoted coaches.  Earlier, the Federation suspended Iran for four years after Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei claimed he was ordered to lose in the semifinals of the 2019 world championships in Tokyo to avoid facing Israeli world champion Sagi Muki in the finals.

As for Saeid Mollaei, he fled Iran for Germany and is now a Mongolian citizen, representing his new country at the Olympics.  And he did his new country proud, winning a silver medal in judo.  And then, in addition, as he proudly explained to the Israel Sports Network, "This medal is dedicated also to Israel.  Todah [Hebrew for thank you]."

The same article has more about just what Mollaei did:

Saeid Mollaei, a former Iranian judoka now representing Mongolia, took home the silver medal in the men's 81-kilogram division, losing the gold to Takanori Nagase of Japan.

It was the first Olympic medal for Mollaei, two years after he left his native Iran, revealing that his national team coaches had ordered him to lose in the semifinals of the 2019 World Championships in Tokyo to avoid facing Israel's Sagi Muki in the final. Mollaei subsequently moved to Germany and then acquired Mongolian citizenship.

Mollaei told the Israeli Sports Channel that he was thankful for the support he's received from Israel over the years.

"Thank you to Israel for the good energy. This medal is dedicated also to Israel," he told the network. "I hope the Israelis are happy with this win."

He added in Hebrew: "Todah" (thank you).

Now that is the real Olympic spirit.  Todah, תודה, thank you, Saeid, for demonstrating it.

Image: Saeid Mollaei by Mohammad Hassansadeh.  CC BY 4.0.

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