After his second-place finish in the men's 81 kg judo final on Tuesday, Iranian defector Saeid Mollaei dedicated his silver medal to Israel and thanked the country in Hebrew.
According to The Daily Mail, Mollaei ''dedicated his first-ever Olympic medal to Israel and thanked the country for the support they have given him after a nail-biting final.''
The Daily Mail continued: ''The judo world champion, who trained in Israel with their national judo team in the months before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, thanked the country in Hebrew as he dedicated his first-ever Olympic medal to Israel.''
Mollaei told the Israeli Sports Channel after losing the final match to his Japanese opponent, Takanori Nagase: ''[T]hank you to Israel for the good energy. This medal is dedicated also to Israel.''
Mollaei defected to Germany during the 2019 Judo World Championships after Iran's minister demanded that he, rather than spar with an Israeli athlete, withdraw from the match. Mollaei now competes for Mongolia.
The Israeli athlete that Mollaei was ordered not to spar against, Sagi Muki, who also competed in this year's Olympics before losing to an Austrian competitor, praised Mollaei for ''achieving his dream'' and called Mollaei his ''close friend.''
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