Israeli Judoka Tal Flicker took home the gold medal at the Judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi. Flicker beat Azerbaijan's Nijay Shikhalizadeh to win the top prize in the 66 Kilogram division. Earlier, Israeli Gili Cohen won the bronze medal in the women's 52 Kilogram division.
Flicker's triumph comes after he picked up the bronze medal at the World Judo Championships in Budapest back in August.
The Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi had found itself in a storm of controversy after the Arab nation discriminated against the Israeli athletes and refused to permit them to wear the Israeli flag during the competition, forcing them to compete under the International Judo Federation's (IJF) flag instead.
Abu Dhabi also refused to play the Israeli national anthem after Cohen and Flicker's win. The International Judo Federation fired off a letter to the United Arab Emirates Judo Federation President Mohamed Bin Thalub on Wednesday in response and demanded that “all delegations, including the Israeli delegation, shall be treated absolutely equally in all aspects, without any exception.”
"The IJF Statutes clearly provide that the IJF shall not discriminate on the ground of race, religion, gender or political opinion’…According to these principles, which are binding for the entire Olympic Movement including of course the IJF and all national federations and other entities involved in the organisation of any judo sports event, there may not be any discrimination of any kind at any event organised by or supervised by the IJF, including of course the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam" read the missive.
The Israeli delegation was also left stranded at Ben-Gurion Airport after Abu Dhabi refused to allow them to fly via Turkey. The 12 Israeli judokas were supposed to receive their visas to the United Arab Emirates in Istanbul and arrive for the competition on Monday. The team had to travel to Amman to receive the visas instead.
It has historically been challenging for Israeli athletes to compete at sporting events that are held in Arab countries. In 2009, the Association of Tennis Professionals threatened to ban Dubai from hosting future Tennis events after the country banned Israeli Shahar Pe'er from participating in the Dubai Tennis Championship.