Israel’s Inbar Lanir wins gold at World Judo Championships in Qatar

Judoka becomes Israel’s 3rd world champion, dedicates her win to those under rocket fire

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Inbar Lanir poses with her gold medal after winning the World Judo Championships in Doha, Qatar, May 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed)
Inbar Lanir poses with her gold medal after winning the World Judo Championships in Doha, Qatar, May 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed)

Israeli judoka Inbar Lanir won a gold medal on Friday at the World Judo Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Lanir, 23, defeated France’s Audrey Tcheumeo in the finals of the 78-kilogram (172-pound) weight class.

On her way to the podium, Lanir defeated four opponents, including the number-one ranked competitor, Italy’s Alice Bellandi.

Bellandi had defeated Lanir in their four previous meetings, but Lanir won a tense contest with a stunning, match-ending ippon, or throw.

In the dramatic final match, Lanir and Tcheumeo both landed on their backs during an exchange in the first minute. Lanir was awarded the throw, but the call was retracted after a video review.

Lanir then threw Tcheumeo for the win, in a major victory for Israeli sports on the world stage.

Lanir dedicated her win to Israelis dealing with the conflict with Gaza this week.

“I’m happy to dedicate my medal to the residents of the south who are going through a difficult period, to IDF soldiers and to all the State of Israel,” she said. “It was so important for me to do something good during such complex and difficult days, and I’m happy and satisfied that I succeeded.”

Sports and Culture Minister Miki Zohar said Lanir’s win had been “wonderful news for the people of Israel.”

“All the people of Israel are proud of her win. Especially at this moment, she brought all of us satisfaction and happiness,” Zohar said.

The International Judo Federation, in a write-up of the match, called Lanir’s victory a “surprise.”

The weight category is especially competitive, and Tcheumeo was favored to win.

Tcheumeo is “the most decorated French judoka in history” in terms of world medal count, with 36 of them, the federation noted.

Lanir became the third Israeli to win the World Championship, after Yarden Gerbi in 2013 and Sagi Muki in 2019.

Also at the Doha competitions, Israel’s Peter Paltchik won the bronze in the men’s 100-kilogram (220-pound) division.

Israel has won a number of Judo medals at the Olympics, but has not won any Olympic golds in the sport.

Judo is one of Israel’s strongest sports, along with windsurfing, sailing and rhythmic gymnastics.

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