Iran Does Backstroke on Competing with Israeli in Games

Iran's swimmer refused to take a dive against an Israeli even though Iran said he could stay in the water because several lanes separated them.

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu,

Several hours after the Iranian National Olympic Committee said its swimmer would compete with an Israeli at the Beijing Sumer Games, the swimmer pulled out of the contest. The Iranian council had said that the competition would not present a problem because the swimmers were separated by five lanes and would not face each other.

However, Iranian swimmer Mohammed Alirezaei left his lane empty instead of swimming against Israel's Tom Be'eri, who finished fourth. He set a new Israeli record with a 1.02:42 time in the 100-meter breaststroke category.

The Iranian judo world champion refused to compete in the 2004 Games at Athens because of the presence of an Israeli athlete, but the Tehran committee had said the boycott would not be repeated this year. "Alirezaei swims in lane one and the representative of the Zionist regime in lane seven, so they will not face each other," Iranian Olympic Committee secretary Ali Kafashian told an Iranian news agency prior to the race.

In other contests, Israel's Gal Yekutial lost the chance for a bronze medal in Judoka after beating the Mongolia contestant but losing to Ruben Houkes of the Netherlands and two athletes from Russia and Georgia.