Israeli judo glory in Abu Dhabi - minus the flags

Israeli judaokas bag two bronze medals but are forced to be flagless; 'I won and broke out in tears, it hurt me so much.'

Ari Yashar, | updated: 20:40

Yarden Garbi
Yarden Garbi
Reuters

Israeli judaokas took home two bronze medals on Saturday at a tournament in the United Arabs Emirates (UAE).

At the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, Yarden Gerbi and Sagi Muki brought honor to the Jewish state. Both Gerbi versus her opponent from Holland and Muki against a judaoka from Belgium won by ippon, namely throwing their opponent to the ground on their backs in the highest scoring technique. 

However, they were forced to appear under the International Judo Federation flag, and not under the Israeli flag, due to the discrimination of the tournament's hosts. The flag was likewise forbidden from their uniforms, under "security" excuses.

The Israel Judo Association said that the move was a compromise, and that otherwise the judaokas would have simply been barred from the tournament altogether.

At the medal distribution ceremony, the Israeli flag was the only one glaringly not present among the flags of the winners.

Gerbi broke into tears at the medal ceremony, and afterwards explained her feelings of frustration, noting that for six years Israelis had been banned from the tournament - and that they only found out they would be banned from using the Israeli flag after they arrived in Abu Dhabi.

"I broke out in tears"

"The moment that I knew that I would not compete under the Israeli flag I had a deep feeling of pain in my heart, as a patriotic Israeli it was hard but when I thought about how important it is to compete, that everyone knows where I'm from, where I grew up, (I realized) that winning for this country is a lot more important than not to compete at all."

Gerbi stated, "it annoyed me so much, it hurt me so much, but when I got on the mat today I felt a different feeling, that something is burning inside me. When I won the match for the bronze medal I broke out in tears, it was so hard for me, this feeling that I'm not under my flag and my country."

"But today, more than ever, it was important for me to compete, to win, to prove to everyone that taking part here is the greatest victory. All those who call it a disgrace...I represent my state always, whether they hide my flag or not. The decision was made only after we reached Abu Dhabi and not in an initial decision."

"Even though the Israeli flag wasn't here I felt that I represented an entire state," Sagi Muki said after the victory. "When they told me that I can't compete with the Israeli flag, it only gave me more motivation to show that we can't be erased, that we will always be the highest possible."

"I'm happy that I succeeded in winning bronze, and even though there was no flag, I felt that I fought for the state. I wasn't afraid to come here."

The exclusive tournament will award the two Israelis critical points for the coming 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.




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