Israel’s poor showing at the Rio Olympic Games persisted on Sunday as two judokas were eliminated from the running.
In a massive Sunday afternoon upset, the 118th ranked Zambian fighter Mathews Punza defeated Israeli judoka Golan Pollack, ranked seventh and considered a serious medal contender.
Pollack won a bronze at last year’s World Championships but struggled to defend against Punza’s attacks during their first round match. Although Punza prefers classic-style judo that involves throwing an opponent from an upright position, he won using the groundwork component of judo, by pinning Pollack to the ground for 20 seconds, which automatically ends in victory.
Punza said he had no particular strategy in mind, but simply wanted “to put on my best performance.” For his next fight, Pollack said he would prefer to throw, but that will depend on his opponent. “I just prepare myself for whatever might happen,” he said.
Less than an hour later, judoka Gili Cohen lost to Christianne Legentil of Mauritius in the Women’s 52kg tournament, failing to score a point in the round of 16 match-up.
“I’m really disappointed, there’s no other way to say it. I can’t point to the specific moment that led to my downfall, though I might get more answers once I watch the match again.” Cohen told the Walla news website. “I hope that the other girls perform better in their competitions than I did.”
On Saturday, Israeli judoka Shira Rishoni was disqualified from the Olympic Games in Rio on a technical foul during her first battle.
Israeli judo team members Sagi Muki, Or Sasson, Yarden Gerbi, and Linda Bolder were still in the running.
Earlier on Sunday, one of Cohen’s potential opponents, Saudi Arabia’s Joud Fahmy forfeited her first-round judo match against Legentil in what Hebrew-language media said was a maneuver to avoid facing Cohen in the next round.
The Ynet news site reported the Saudi Olympic team claimed that Fahmy’s no show was the result of a training injury, and Israel’s Channel 2 said the judoka was not hurt, but simply dropped out to avoid competing against her Israeli opponent.
Also Sunday, the head of Lebanon’s Olympic Committee was summoned by the Games’ organizers for a dressing down, following a kerfuffle with the Israeli delegation after the two teams were told to share a bus to the opening ceremony Friday night.
The Lebanese delegation refused to allow the Israeli players to board the bus, leading to a spat that injected politics into the Games’ opening.
Eventually, organizers put Israel on a separate bus.
The Lebanese delegation was cautioned not to repeat any such behavior, a warning likely also directed at other teams that do not recognize Israel and chafe at having to share sporting space with the Jewish state.
The Lebanese official, for his part, claimed the tiff was a misunderstanding, according to reports in Israeli media.
AP contributed to this report.