Israeli judoka Sagi Muki on Aug. 28 won the gold medal in the under 81 kg weight category at the Judo World Championship in Tokyo, becoming the first Israeli in history to win the title.
In the final match, Muki defeated Belgian judoka Matthias Casse once again, after beating him a year ago in the Abu-Dabi Grand Slam competition.
Muki had an outstanding tournament, beating all six opponents, most by an Ippon, and many in very short rounds.
Earlier in the day, in the quarter-finals, Muki overpowered Egypt’s Abdelaal Mohamed, who left the mat after the defeat while refusing to shake his hand. Shaking hands at the end of a Judo match is customary and refusing to do so is considered disrespectful.
Similarly, Iranian Judoka Saeid Mollaei reportedly lost to Belgium’s Casse on purpose to avoid a faceoff with Muki.
The Israeli Judoka was not afraid to show emotions throughout the championship, crying as he sang the national anthem and as the referee announced him as the winner in the final match.
Muki, who went into the championship ranked second place in the world, has won the European championship twice but has yet to win the world championship.
In the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, he reached fifth place, positioning himself as a strong contender for the 2020 Olympic games.
Muki’s win is a considerable achievement for Israeli Judo, as he is the first Israeli male judoka to win the Judo World Championship.
“World champion! Well done Sagi Muki — you have brought a lot of respect and pride to us all,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted.
Israeli Minister of Sports and Culture Miri Regev said that Muki “filled us all with joy and pride after demonstrating a perfect day.”
“Just a year before the Olympic Games, in the main hall where the Olympic competitions will take place, Sagi proved to be in peak form, overpowered his rivals and brought tremendous respect [to Israel] by his winning the gold medal,” she added.
Commenting on the Egyptian athlete’s refusal to shake Muki’s hand in the semi-finals, Regev said it was “unfortunate and disappointing and no longer has a place on the mat where sports connect nations, fairness is top value and athletes are a role model for the younger generation.”
Of the Iranian Judoka Mollaei, she said she was “sorry for the ‘headache’ from which the Iranian athlete suffers. I hope Sagi is not the cause.”