Israeli judoka Sagi Muki wins gold medal at World Championship

Muki showed impressive fighting abilities in Wednesday's tournament, having beaten most of his opponents by Ippon, including a fight that lasted merely 25 seconds.

By ALON EINHORN
August 28, 2019 21:38
3 minute read.
Judo - World Judo Championships - Men's Under 81 kg - Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan - August 28, 2019

Judo - World Judo Championships - Men's Under 81 kg - Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan - August 28, 2019 - Israel's Sagi Muki and Kyrgyzstan's Vladimir Zoloev compete. (photo credit: REUTERS/KIM KYUNG-HOON)

Netanya-born judoka Sagi Muki won the gold medal at the Judo World Championships in Tokyo on Wednesday – the first time an Israeli male judoka has received this honor.

The Israeli sang along from his perch on the podium as “Hatikva” played in Tokyo and the Israeli flag waved.
On his way to the top, Muki, 27, faced six opponents, gaining the upper hand on all of them, winning the gold medal in the under 81 kg. category.

This is Muki’s first medal at the World Championships, having won the European gold medal in 2015 and again in 2018. He also finished fifth in the international competition in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2016.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Muki on Twitter along with a photo of the athlete showing Netanyahu a medal he received from a different event. “World champion!” the prime minister wrote. “Wonderful Sagi Muki – bringing a lot of respect and pride to all of us.”

Netanyahu held a video chat with Muki and congratulated him on his achievement.

“You’ve proven what I always say, that thanks to talented wonderful people such as yourself we turned Israel into a judo powerhouse,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu invited Muki to come to the Prime Minister’s Office with the medal.

“But a huge medal,” Netanyahu joked, as he was speaking with the Israeli world champion.

“I’ll come,” Muki promised.

Netanyahu held a video-conversation with Muki and congratulated him for his achievement. 

"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 said. 

Netanyahu invited Muki to come to the Prime Minister’s Office with the medal.

“But a huge medal,” Netanyahu joked, as he was speaking with the Israeli world champion.

“I’ll come,” Muki promised.

He also thanked Netanyahu and told him it is a “privilege to represent Israel.”

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

Muki showed impressive fighting abilities in Wednesday’s tournament, having beaten most of his opponents by ippon (the highest score a fighter can achieve in Japanese martial arts), including in a fight that lasted merely 25 seconds.

In the quarterfinals, Muki faced Egyptian Mohamed Abdelaal, who refused to shake Muki’s hand after having lost to him. Shaking hands at the end of a judo match is customary. Failing to shake the hand of one’s opponent is a sign of great disrespect.
 

The biggest question coming into this tournament was whether Muki, ranked second in the world, would face Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei in the finals, and whether the Iranian judoka would forfeit in order not to play an Israeli, as has happened in the past. But the Iranian lost the semifinals and did not get to face Muki.

The Iranian judoka lost his battle for the bronze medal. If he had won the medal, he was expected to not show up for the medal ceremony so as not to stand on the podium alongside Muki.


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