Israeli judoka Sagi Muki made history on October 28 – coincidentally, World Judo Day — by winning a gold medal in the 81-kilo weight class at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
This marked the first time Israeli competitors were permitted to show the Israeli flag on their uniforms and the first time Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva,” was played in the United Arab Emirates.
Muki’s teammates Gili Cohen, Baruch Shmalilov and Timna Nelson Levi won three bronze medals earlier in the Grand Slam, and Peter Paltchik won a gold medal in the under 100-kg weight class today (October 29).
Muki, 26, won a gold medal in the 2018 European Championship in Judo last April.
In another landmark development on World Judo Day in Abu Dhabi, Israeli Minister of Sports and Culture Miri Regev and Israel Judo Association President Moshe Ponte signed an agreement to bring an IJF World Judo Tour event to Israel for the first time. The Tel Aviv Grand Prix will take place in January and a second Grand Prix is set for 2020.
A year ago, 12 Israeli judokas brought home five medals from the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2017 — a gold for Tal Flicker and bronze medals for Ori Sasson, Peter Paltchik, Gili Cohen and Tohar Butbul. However, the Israelis were forced to compete under the banner of the IJF and the IJF anthem was played instead of “Hatikva.”
Following that incident, the heads of the Israel Judo Association, International Judo Federation and the UAE Judo & Wrestling Federation declared a commitment to meeting again in Abu Dhabi in 2018 under equal conditions.
IJF President Marius Vizer said after Muki’s win: “We are able to send to the world a message of solidary, friendship and peace and I thank everyone involved in this achievement. We showed a nice example to the youth of the world in a moment that was not just more than a sport but more than judo and was a crucial moment in the world. I hope the unity between the two cultures, Muslim and Israeli, is a start for a new era in sport and in the world.”