Israeli judoka Sagi Muki won a gold medal Friday in the under-81 kg class at the 2018 European Championships, held this year in Tel Aviv.
Muki had previously won the gold in the 2015 championships and was considered a favorite for a medal at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. However, just ahead of those games he suffered two slipped discs in his back. Despite the injury, he managed to compete and reach the semifinals.
The judoka, who defeated Belgium’s Sami Chouchi in the final, thanked the hundreds of Israelis who came to support him during the match.
“The audience gave me strength. We have a small but strong country,” he said.
“It’s a dream come true to win in Israel. Since finishing Rio I’ve dreamed of this moment, with the entire rehabilitation process I’ve undergone,” Muki said.
Muki’s coach Oren Smadja sent his condolences to the victims of Thursday’s flash flood in the Judean desert, an incident that shocked the country.
GOLD for #TeamIsrael Sagi Muki !!!! European Champion!
Posted by Follow Team Israel on Friday, 27 April 2018
“This is a sad day accompanied by great joy,” he said. Muki “went through a tough time, we supported him during this period. He’s an elite sportsman.”
An emotional Muki later sang the Israeli national anthem as the audience joined in.
MUST WATCH!! BRILLIANT…Watch as the Hatikvah is played after Israeli Judoka Sagi Muki wins GOLD at the European Judo Championships which are being held in TEL AVIV. Mazeltov Sagi, Mazeltov!
Posted by Sussex Friends Of Israel on Friday, 27 April 2018
Israel’s last major win at an international tournament, in October of last year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, was mired by controversy, when the host country refused to play the Israeli anthem. Tournament organizers played the anthem of the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) instead.
Israeli judoka Tal Flicker, who won a gold medal at the competition in the under-66 kilogram class, said he defied the state’s boycott on displaying Israeli symbols and playing the anthem by shutting out the “background noise” and singing “Hatikvah” himself at the medal ceremony.
The ban on Israeli symbols came despite the IJF’s demand before the tournament that the UAE treat Israeli athletes equally.