Israel Wins Big at European Games

Israeli wins 12 medals in Baku competition; Judo team gives particularly impressive showing taking home gold, silver and bronze medals.

Nitsan Keidar, Cynthia Blank,

Coach Smadja with Sassoon
Coach Smadja with Sassoon
Judo Association

Israel emerged as a big winner at the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan over the weekend, taking home twelve medals in such events as wrestling, judo, swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, athletics and shooting. 

The judo team, in particular, did very well. Led by men's team coach Oren Smadja, Israeli judokas took gold and silver medals in two different weight categories. 

Competing in the men's under-73 kilograms competition on Friday, Sagi Moki won gold, defeating the outgoing European champion. It was the promising athlete's first win in a major international tournament. 

Moki, 23, from Netanya, entered the tournament ranked seventh in the world in his weight class. After the major win, he seems poised for an impressive showing the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next summer. 

Taking a surprising silver in the over-100 kilogram competition was Uri Sasson, 24, who entered the tournament much behind Moki with a world ranking of 36. 

Sasson lost in the finals to Georgia's Adam Okruashivili, who has been ranked second in Europe for the past two years. 

Israel's women's judo team, led by coach Shany Hershko, also had something to smile about with Yarden Gerbi taking the bronze medal in the under-63 kilograms competition. 

Smadja, who won a bronze medal in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, told Army Radio Sunday that he appreciated the achievements, but did not want to become complacent. 

"This didn't happen suddenly. It just came strongly now," Smadja said, adding that "although we won in an impressive and dignified manner, these athletes will compete in two months at the World Championships, which is the main goal."