Israel’s Tommy Arshanski missed out on a medal at the World Judo Championships in heartbreaking fashion in Chelyabinsk, Russia on Monday.
The 22-year-old lost to Georgian Amiran Papinashvili in the battle for the bronze medal in the under-60 kilogram competition after a controversial decision went against him with just 10 seconds remaining.
Arshanski was leading Papinashvili when his attempt to increase his advantage backfired, with the referees awarding his opponent a wazari in a contentious ruling, giving the Georgian a crucial edge.
Arshanski, who won a bronze medal at the European Championships last year and represented Israel at the London Olympics as one of three up-and-coming athletes, was distraught. He hit the mat in frustration, held his head in disbelief and screamed in despair.
“Everything came together today and I should have returned home with a medal,” said Arshanski, who ultimately finished the competition in fifth place. “I controlled the battle for the bronze and I’m bitterly disappointed.”
Arshanski was hoping to become just the sixth Israeli to claim a medal at the Worlds and follow in the footsteps of Yael Arad (1991 - bronze, 1993 - silver), Oren Smadja (1995 - silver), Arik Ze’evi (2001 - silver), Alice Schlesinger (2009 – bronze) and Yarden Gerbi (2013 - gold).
Arshanski nevertheless became the first Israeli man to finish in the top five at the Worlds in 13 years.
“Tommy deserved a medal today and proved to us that he will be ready for the Rio Olympics,” said men’s national team coach, Oren Smadja.
“I’m proud of him.”
Arshanski’s day began in bizarre fashion, with his suit being deemed as illegal due to its length. He was forced to use an alternative suit and coach Smadja was sent to the stands as a punishment instead of sitting beside the mat.
Arshanski, who entered the competition ranked No. 24 in the world, brushed the distraction aside and beat Ilgar Mushkiyev (11) in the first round.
Saudi Arabian Eisa Majrashi didn’t show up for his second round meeting with Arshanski in a political protest and the Israeli went on to reach the quarterfinals after overcoming Janier Pena of Cuba.
Arshanski was defeated by world No. 1 Naohisa Takato of Japan in the last eight, but he progressed to the battle for the bronze after In Hyuk Choi of South Korea retired through injury.
Arshanski led for most of the fight against world No. 2 Papinashvili, but his dream day ultimately turned into a nightmare.
Two more Israelis will be in action in the championships on Tuesday, with Gili Cohen and Roni Schwartz to take part in the women’s under- 52kg competition.
Sagi Muki (73kg) and Camila Minakawa (57kg) will enter the fray on Wednesday, with reigning world champion Yarden Gerbi (63kg) hoping to defend her title on Thursday.
Ori Sasson (+100kg) will be the final Israeli to participate in the championships on Saturday.