Gold for Haimovitz after Iranian pulls out

Israel’s first Youth Olympic medal comes in taekwando; Iran claims injury, Israel says it’s politically-based.

gili haimovitz 311 (photo credit: Israel Taekwando Federation)
gili haimovitz 311
(photo credit: Israel Taekwando Federation)
Gili Haimovitz claimed Israel’s first gold medal at the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore on Sunday, but it was a sad day for the Olympic movement after his Iranian opponent in the final of the taekwondo under-48 kilogram competition, Mohammad Soleimani, was forced to withdraw for political reasons.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge stressed the educational importance of the Youth Olympics at his opening ceremony speech on Saturday, but the Iranians continue to get away with their disdain for fair play, sending the exact opposite message to young athletes with their pathetic behavior.
The Iranian delegation told the Games’ news service that Soleimani withdrew because of injury, claiming that he was taken to a hospital – an excuse which will once more save it from sanctions.
“I really don’t know what the Iranian’s excuse was, but I did what I had to do,” said the 17-year-old Haimovitz, who is also the European youth champion.
Daniel Oren, head of the Israeli delegation, said he was thrilled with the gold medal but expressed frustration that the victory was not earned on the mat.
“When Gili won the semifinal, we knew the Iranian was making the final. Already, we knew that the Iranians would not come,” Oren said. “This is their system. On the one hand, we got the gold medal.
It’s very exciting for us. On the other hand, we would prefer to win by competing.”
Iran has a long history of avoiding competing with Israelis, including in the last two Olympic Games.
In 2008, Mohammad Alirezaei refused to race alongside Israeli swimmer Tom Be’eri in the 100-meter breaststroke heats in Beijing.
Four years earlier, judo world champion Arash Miresmaeli disqualified himself to avoid a meeting with Israel’s Ehud Vaks in the under-66 kg competition and was later awarded the same $125,000 prize money Iran handed its gold medal winners.
“It is a shame politics has once more overcome the sporting spirit and Gili wasn’t given a chance to beat the Iranian opponent,” Israel Taekwondo President Michel Madar said. “Nevertheless, that should not take anything away from Gili’s achievement.”
Haimovitz began the day with an 8-7 victory over Kirk Barbosa of the Philippines before beating Lucas Guzman of Argentina 5-4 after extra time to advance to the final and essentially guarantee himself the gold medal.
Earlier in Singapore, Japan’s Yuka Sato won the first gold medal of the Games, racing to a comfortable victory in the women’s triathlon on Sunday.
Sato, 18, finished the race in 1 hour and 49 seconds followed by Australian Ellie Salthouse who finished in 1:01:04 and American Kelly Whitley who came in third 1:01:48. The 32 athletes swam 750 meters, cycled 20 kilometers and ran 5 kilometers through Singapore’s East Coast Park.
“I made it,” Sato said. “I knew this would be the first contest in the Youth Olympics which really got me motivated to go for gold.
I really wanted to drive team Japan.”
The triathlon started the 12-day event which will feature 3,600 athletes ages 14 to 18 from 204 national olympic committees competing in 26 sports across the Asian city-state.
In an unofficial medal tally because organizers are not collating a medals table, Russia leads the medal haul with four followed by China at three after the first day of competition. Nine countries have won two.
Meanwhile, British diver Tom Daley is in doubt for the Youth Olympics after withdrawing from the European Championships due to a tricep injury.
Daley, who became at 15- years-old the youngest diver to win a world title in men’s platform earlier this year, withdrew from the European championships on Saturday and said in a statement he will travel to Singapore and determine later whether he will compete.
Daley’s withdrawal would be a blow to the Youth Olympics, which counted the young Briton among one of its marquee competitors. He is due to compete in the 3- meter springboard and 10- meter platform. Daley is also scheduled to compete in the Commonwealth Games in October.

AP contributed to this report.