Israel’s Or Sasson beat Cuba’s Alex Maxell Garcia Mendoza to win a bronze medal in the men’s over-100kg competition at the Rio Games on Friday.
Sasson’s was Israel’s second bronze of the Games, following female judoka Yarden Gerbi’s bronze on Tuesday.
Sasson and Mendoza fought a close tussle, with no decisive moves, with Sasson prevailing by dint of fewer penalties.
Sasson, who turns 26 on August 18, a two-time European silver medalist, had lost his semifinal fight to France’s Teddy Riner, the event’s outstanding performer, who went on to retain his gold medal.
Gold-medalist Riner, who defeated Japan’s Hisayoshi Harsawa for the Rio gold, has not lost a competition in six years, is unbeaten in over 110 fights and in 2012 won the top prize at the London Games. He is also the only judoka in the world to ever win eight World Championship gold medals.
The Israeli brushed off an unpleasant encounter with his defeated Egyptian opponent, Islam El-Shahaby in the first round, going on to win two more fights and claim his place in the semifinals against the legendary Riner.
El-Shahaby refused to shake hands with Sasson after his defeat, or even bow in mutual respect.
The Egyptian was ordered back to the floor to bow, was booed by the crowd, and later said he was quitting judo.
Sasson beat Poland’s Maciej Sarnacki in the second round and Roy Meyer of the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. The defeated Meyer paid tribute to Sasson’s fighting skills after their match, but told Israeli TV that he was not going to beat Riner.
As it turned out, Sasson held his own against Riner for much of the fight, only being outmaneuvered in the final few seconds.
In stark contrast to El-Shahaby’s behavior, Riner shook hands warmly with Sasson at the end of the encounter, and whispered some words of congratulation to the Israeli for his performance.
On Tuesday, fellow Israeli judoka Yarden Gerbi overcame an early loss to win bronze in the women’s under-63 kg in Rio, becoming the first Israeli athlete to win a medal at the 2016 games, and the first Israeli Olympic medalist since windsurfer Shahar Tzuberi took home the bronze in the 2008 games in Beijing.
Gerbi defeated Japan’s Miku Tashiru in the repechage to claim the third place spot.