Saudi, Israeli judokas clasp hands after boycotts

1 month ago 9

9:42 PM ET

Aishwarya KumarESPN.com

Tahani Alqahtani, a Saudi Arabian judoka, fought against her Israeli opponent, Raz Hershko, in the over-78kg women's category on Saturday after mounting pressure to follow two Muslim athletes who boycotted their bouts against Israeli athletes earlier in the Olympic Games.

At the end of the bout, Alqahtani and Hershko clasped each other's hands and raised them in the air as a show of solidarity.

There was doubt over whether the bout would happen after two judokas in the 73kg men's category boycotted their bouts rather than take on their Israeli opponents.

The first to withdraw from the 73kg men's event was Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine, who, after seeing the competition draw, decided to quit knowing that he would have to face Israeli fighter Tohar Butbut en route to the podium. Nourine was set to face Sudan's Mohamed Abdalrasool in his first bout and had a good chance of facing Butbul in the second round.

This is the second time Nourine has withdrawn from a tournament because he was bound to face Butbul. The first one was at the 2019 World Championships in Japan, where after his first-round win, he pulled out of his second-round bout against Butbul. He said at the time that it was part of a protest in solidarity with Palestinians.

After Nourine pulled out of the Olympic Games, the International Judo Federation withdrew Nourine's Olympics accreditation saying his actions were in "total opposition to our philosophy."

"We worked a lot to reach the Olympics ... but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this," Nourine said, adding that his decision was "final."

Nourine's withdrawal meant Abdalrasool automatically qualified to face Butbul, but that bout ended up getting canceled after Abdalrasool decided to withdraw as well.

The withdrawals left a huge question mark on the fight between Alqahtani and Hershko, but the bout ended up taking place according to schedule. Hershko won the fight by a knockout blow, which is called ippon in Judo, after one minute and 44 seconds.

At the end of the fight, the judokas bowed to one another and then shook hands, after which Hershko lifted Alqahtani's hand in the air.

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