Israeli Judokas Tal Flicker (right) and Gili Cohen (left).
(photo credit: IJF/ COURTESY)
Israel’s Tal Flicker put all the distractions aside and claimed the under 66 kg gold medal at the judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. The 25-year-old defeated Nijat Shikhalizada of Azerbaijan in the final, registering an Ippon, judo’s version of a knockout, with 25 seconds remaining.
Flicker, who entered the event ranked No. 2 in the world, competed under the flag of the International Judo Federation, with the organizers claiming that due to security concerns the Israelis can’t have their flag on their judo uniform or ISR (Israel) by their names on the scoreboard and on their backs.
Israel also took part in the event in Abu Dhabi under similar conditions two years ago. This year’s delegation has already surpassed the achievements of the team from 2015, with Gili Cohen taking a bronze medal in the women’s under-52kg competition on Thursday.
The recently retired Yarden Gerbi and Sagi Muki, who will compete on Friday, each won a bronze medal in Abu Dhabi two years ago.
Israel sent 12 athletes in all to the event, which runs until Saturday.
The delegation arrived in Abu Dhabi a day later than scheduled due to a misunderstanding with the organizers regarding the location in which it should pick up its visas.
However, despite everything that went on off the mat, Flicker never lost his focus on Thursday, going on all the way to build on his excellent displays throughout2017.
Two months ago, Flicker joined an exclusive list with some of Israel’s greatest ever judokas when he took a bronze medal at the World Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Flicker became the seventh Israeli to scale the podium at the World Championships. The first to do so was Yael Arad (1991– bronze, 1993– silver).
She was later joined by: Oren Smadja (1995 – silver), Arik Ze’evi (2001 – silver), Alice Schlesinger (2009 – bronze), Yarden Gerbi (2013 – gold, 2014 – silver) and Golan Pollack (2015 – bronze).