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After fleeing Iran, judo champion heads to Israel

February 15, 2021 at 11:10 am

Under 81kg gold medallist, Saeid Mollaei of Iran during day four of the 2018 Judo World Championships at the National Gymnastics Arena on September 23, 2018 in Baku, Azerbaijan. [David Finch/Getty Images]

Iranian Judo champion Saeid Mollaei, who fled the Islamic Republic in 2019, arrived yesterday in Israel, Israeli media reported.

In 2019, Iran ordered Mollaei to withdraw from the World Judo Championships in Japan so he wouldn’t risk facing Israel, but he ignored the official request.

He now represents Mongolia at the Judo Grand Slam competition in Tel Aviv this week.

After he landed in Israel yesterday, Mollaei was taken to a hotel to quarantine ahead of the competition.

Mollaei fled to Germany after he defied his Iranian team. He feared he would lose his international title if he did not face his Israeli opponent Sagi Muki.

While in Germany, he won a competition on 25 November 2020 and Muki congratulated him, with Mollaei describing him as a “friend.”

According to the Times of Israel, Muki told Israel’s Public Broadcaster Kan: “This is a great message to the world. This is something that can even bring Iran closer to Israel. It simply shows how sports can bring together people and break boundaries.”

READ: Iran warns it will respond to Israel provocations