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Tokyo Flies Israeli Flag After Israel Wins Gold Medal in Judo World Championships

08-29-2019
Courtesy AP

JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel's Sagi Muki took home the gold medal at the Judo World Championships in Tokyo on Wednesday, making him the first Israeli man to achieve such an honor.

Muki became the world champion after defeating Belgian fighter Matthias Casse in the men's under 81 kg (178.5 pounds) division.

After his win, an emotional Muki fell to the ground and then stood up with arms wide as the crowd cheered on.

The young fighter stood on the winners' podium and sang along to the Hatikva, Israel's national anthem. Many Israelis in the audience sang along.

Muki had to defeat six opponents to come out on top, including rival Egyptian fighter Mohamed Abdelaal, who refused to shake Muki's hand after losing to him.

Refusing to shake your opponent's hand after a Judo match is a sign of great disrespect. This is not the first time another Middle Eastern competitor has refused to shake an Israeli opponent's hand.

Jason Greenblatt, the Trump administration's Special Representative for International Negotiations, condemned Abdelaal after the incident.

"Sports can bring out the very best. Sadly, it can also remind us how far we have to go. Congrats to Israel's Sagi Muki on becoming the World Judo Champion. Condolences to Mohamed Abdelaal who lost 2x today- once as an athlete and once as a decent person," Greenblatt wrote on Twitter.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Muki to personally congratulate him after his win.

"You've proven what I always say, that thanks to talented wonderful people such as yourself we turned Israel into a Judo power-house," Netanyahu told Muki.

Muki told Netanyahu it is a "privilege to represent Israel."

"Many Israelis came here  [to Tokyo]," he said, "which gives  [the athletes]  a lot of strength."

Muki's win in Tokyo was his first medal at the World Championships. He won the European gold medal in 2015 and 2018. He won fifth place in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2016.

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