Judoka Saeid Mollaei says he hopes 'the Israelis appreciate this achievement'
Iranian defector Saeid Mollaei dedicated his silver medal to Israel after competing in the final of the men’s judo 81-kilogram division on Tuesday at the Tokyo Olympics.
“This medal is also dedicated to Israel and I hope the Israelis appreciate this achievement,” Mollaei said, according to Israel’s Kan public broadcaster.
Mollaei, who represents Mongolia, claimed his first Olympic medal two years after leaving his native Iran after being ordered to lose in the semifinals of the 2019 world championships in Tokyo to avoid facing Israel’s Sagi Muki in the final.
Mollaei departed for Germany and then acquired Mongolian citizenship.
Takanori Nagase of Japan defeated Mollaei to win gold for the host country.
"I hope the Israelis are happy with this win," Mollaei said, adding in Hebrew: "Todah (thank you)."
Muki congratulated his friend on the achievement during a press conference Tuesday with Israeli media, saying that he deserves the medal and calling his journey "incredibly inspiring."
Earlier this year, Mollaei traveled to Tel Aviv for a competition, winning the silver medal for Mongolia.
Iran was recently hit with a four-year ban on participating in international judo events by the sport's top body over Tehran's refusal to let its athletes face off against Israeli competitors.