Israeli flag, anthem out as Israel wins 2 gold medals in Abu Dhabi
Israelis win 2 gold medals in youth Abu Dhabi Ju-Jitsu World Championship, but Israeli anthem not played, flag not flown; deaf competitor wins silver, awarded luxury watch by head of local security services; Ukrainian judoka and reigning European champion visits Israel, uploads photo to Instagram saying 'Good weather in Israel'; dozens of comments blast athlete: 'You must say: Palestine tomorrow will be free.'
The Israel Jiu-Jitsu Federation concluded its participation Friday in the Abu Dhabi Ju-Jitsu World Championship Juniors and Aspirants 2018 with two gold medals, but the Israeli national anthem was not played, nor was the country's flag flown in the competition hall.
Jujutsu is not an Olympic sport and is administered in Israel by Ayelet – The Federation of Non-Olympic Sport in Israel.
Meshi Rosenfeld, competing in the under 55kg category, won the gold in the under 21 competition after beating a Kazakh opponent in the finals. Before the finals, Rosenfeld beat a Portuguese opponent by knockout, as well as a Romanian and Colombian opponent.
Nimrod Ryeder, competing in the under 77kg category, also won gold in the under 21 competition. En route to besting a Kyrgyz opponent in the finals, Ryeder beat Lebanese, Abu Dhabian and Polish opponents. Ryeder beat another Israeli, Amir Alroy, in the semifinals. Alroy himself finished with the bronze.
Yarin Chriki, competing in the under 60kg category in the under 18 competition, won a silver medal, losing to an Abu Dhabian opponent in the final. Shalev Hazut also won the silver in the under 66kg category.
Deaf Israeli combatant Sara Kovaliov, 16, competing in the under 48kg category, won a silver medal after beating a Vietnamese opponent in the semifinals and losing to a Russian opponent in the finals. Kovaliov is a European champion in the under 18 competition.
The young woman so impressed locals with both her abilities and personal story, in fact, that when the team made its way to the airport to return to Israel, head of the local security services that accompanied the Israeli delegation took her aside and gave her a luxurious watch—a gift from one of the local sheikhs.
Despite the fact that the Israeli anthem was not played and the flag not flown—and that in the competition's website Israelis were said to be competing under the Ju-Jitsu International Federation's banner—all members of the delegation noted warm, supportive attitudes from organizers in the United Arab Emirates' capital.
Chairman of the Israel Jiu-Jitsu Federation Erez Alroy said, "Hosts went out of their way during the competition to provide us with quality hosting—an excellent hotel, transportation everywhere, separate warm-up area and so on.
"Ties between the federations grew stronger during the competitions and I hope we get to host their own squad in competition in Israel.
"We've returned with an amazing accomplishment from a really stiff competition, with competitiveness in the field rising every year. I'm proud our young team is continuing to garner international accolades and is considered one of the best in the world."
European judo champion visiting Israel blasted on social media
European judo champion in the under 66kg category, Ukrainian Georgii Zantaraia, visited Israel last week to participate in a training camp in preparation for defending his title at the upcoming Tel Aviv championships in six weeks.
After being warmly received by the Israeli judo team and coaches, as well as Olympic silver medalist Yarden Gerbi who popped in to visit him, Zantaraia, 30, published a photo on Instagram that led to outcry from his followers.
The innocuous photo showed Zantaraia with the backdrop of a parking lot in the Wingate Institute, where Zantaraia was residing. Enclosed with the photo was a message from the judoka saying, "Good weather in Israel."
A short while later, the premier athlete, who has some 43,000 followers on the social network, was inundated with less than favorable responses. Dozens of comments, for example, corrected Zantaraia and pointed out that he was visiting Palestine, and not Israel.
"Sorry, Zantaraia," wrote one follower, "I'm a fan of yours (but) you must say, 'Palestine tomorrow will be free.'"
Other followers simply swore at the Ukrainian athlete, and their comments were deleted.
Zantaraia is considered one of the world's best judokas in the under 66kg category, and is ranked seventh in the world, with Israeli Tal Flicker ranked first and another Israeli, Baruch Shmailov, ranked sixth.
In his illustrious career, the Ukrainian has won five medals at world championships and two gold medals at European championships. He is expected to participate in the upcoming European championship, to be held in Israel starting April 26.