Allon Sinai's Beijing Diary: A judoka who evoked Israeli pride

Yekutiel tried to put on a brave face, but the sad truth was clear for all to see.

olympic promo 224 (photo credit:)
olympic promo 224
(photo credit: )
With bruises in every shade of red and purple all over his body and cuts and scratches ravaging his face, there was no need for Gal Yekutiel to open his mouth on Saturday for us to understand the day he had just endured. Fighting the tears, often unsuccessfully, the physical pain was the furthest thing from the mind of the judoka who was a broken man in the minutes that followed his painful loss to Ruben Houkes in the battle for the bronze medal. Yekutiel attempted to put on a brave face and give the journalists the answers they wanted to hear, but as hard as he tried the sad truth was clear for all to see. The disappointment will no doubt take months, even years to wane. As he admitted, he faces many more nights of tears reflecting on what could have been. When he finally comes to terms with the heartrending defeat, Yekutiel will realize, however, what anybody watching him on Saturday quickly understood. Not only did he finish in fifth place at the Olympic Games, a truly superb achievement, but he also did so with a remarkable display of grit and determination. Despite suffering a disappointing loss against Frenchman Dimitri Dragin early in the day, Yekutiel bounced back and came within one victory of winning the seventh Olympic medal in Israeli history with a valiant effort. It's often said that no one remembers the runner-up and Yekutiel didn't even manage that. His performance on Saturday, however, was a truly memorable one. And even if it's hard for him to accept now, one day he will look back on it with the pride it deserves.