Iranian defector wins judo silver and dedicates Olympic medal to Israel
He thanked Israel in Hebrew after claiming a silver medal.
Iranian-born Saeid Mollaei thanked the country of Israel after winning the silver medal in judo for his adopted country of Mongolia.
The Times of Israel report that Mollaei fled Iran after refusing an order to lose in the 2019 World Championships so that he didn't face Israel's Sagi Muki in the final. The International Judo Federation suspended Iran for four years over its refusal to allow its fighters to face Israelis
Mollaei was then granted asylum in germany before receiving citizenship in Mongolia, who chose him to represent the country at the games this summer.
After winning his silver medal, the 29-year-old said "Todah," which means thank you in Hebrew.
He told the Israeli Sports Channel: "Thank you to Israel for the good energy. This medal is dedicated also to Israel."
According to the Independent, Mollaei and Muki became close friends after the attempted fix at the 2019 World Championships, with the story now being made into a television series by MGM and Israel's Tadmor Entertainment.
Muki had been knocked out of the competition earlier in the week, but congratulated his friend after he won silver, saying that he was "super happy for Saeid."
He told a press conference: "I know what he’s gone through, and how much he wanted it.
"He's a very close friend of mine, and I'm so happy that he succeeded in achieving his dream. He deserves it – his journey is incredibly inspiring."
Earlier in the tournament, the judo had seen controversy after two fighters withdrew before facing an Israeli competitor, in protest against Israel's treatment of Palestine.
Sudan’s Mohamed Abalrasool missed the round against Israel’s Tohar Butbul on Monday while Algeria’s Fethi Nourine was suspended after he withdrew on Saturday.