Saudi judoka thrashed by Israeli opponent at Tokyo Olympics

Saudi judoka thrashed by Israeli opponent after dismissing calls to ditch 'normalisation' match
2 min read
30 July, 2021
A Saudi judoka was resoundingly defeated by her Israeli opponent at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after refusing calls to withdraw from the match.
Saudi Tahani Al-Qahtani (in white) lost 11-0 to Israeli Raz Hershko at the Tokyo Olympics [Getty]

A Saudi judoka has been resoundingly defeated by her Israeli opponent at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after refusing calls to withdraw from the match.

Saudi Tahani Al-Qahtani was thrashed 11-0 by Israel’s Raz Hershko at the match which took place in the Women’s +78 kg category on Friday.

Hershko was later eliminated from the competition, losing to Japanese judoka Akira Sone.

The Saudi Olympic Committee had earlier announced that the game would go ahead, despite Saudi Arabia having no official ties with Israel.

While Saudi Arabia has not yet followed the UAE and Bahrain and established relations with Israel, there are increasing signs that the groundwork is being prepared for normalisation of ties, with anti-Palestinian narratives being promoted in Saudi state-owned media.

Earlier at the Tokyo Olympics, an Algerian and a Sudanese judoka withdrew from their matches rather than face off against Israeli opponents.

Algerian Fethi Nourine said that his support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible for him to compete against Israeli Tohar Butbol.

Sudanese judoka Mohamed Abdalrasool also withdrew from a match against Butbol.

Arab and Iranian athletes have withdrawn from matches against Israelis in previous Olympic games and faced sanctions as a result.

However following her defeat by Hershko, Al-Qahtani said that she "wasn’t interested" in criticism of her for agreeing to face off against an Israeli opponent.

“I’ve turned off my phone for the past two days,” she said.

"It was a normal match. I lost but I feel OK – it’s sport in the end," Al-Qahtani added.

Al-Qahtani also boasted of shaking her Israeli opponent’s hand three times. Arab athletes have previously refused to shake hands with their Israeli counterparts out of support for the Palestinian cause.

The "Israel in Arabic" Twitter account, which is run by the Israeli Foreign Ministry tweeted that the match was a "historic" occasion.