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Judo Blog: Update on Israeli Judo & the IJF

As a Jewish guy who started judo in 1966 at the Jewish ‘Y’

In my hometown of Pittsburgh I’m particularly fascinated by how big judo is in Israel. With the latest IJF Grand Slam held in Israel, here some articles I collected and links over the last year I share as my Black Belt Blog for this week. (Video Highlights & American Judo Article on Recent Grand Slam in Israel)

Raz Hershko wins Israel’s second gold at judo Grand Slam in Tel Aviv

Saeid Mollaei Turns 30 (Now 31!) Here you can watch ALL IJF World Judo Tour events LIVE, along with various Judo Highlight shows, video series, best moments, athlete interviews ...

Saeid Mollaei sacrificed a lifetime for a dream. He did it of his own free will and he did it in Japan at a place called the Budokan. Fate has reasons that reasons does not know, but when it pays justice it has an unmistakable flavor. Today is the birthday of Saeid who turns 30.

In 2019 Tokyo was the scene of a bad action, espionage and suspense movie, whose main actor was Mollaei. Bad because when politics penetrates the field of sport things usually end badly and sometimes very badly. Mollaei's sin was not being born in Iran. His sin was not accepting orders and his penance was an ordeal that cost him much more than a person can bear, because to be free he had to renounce everything. The story is well known. What is little known, because it has not been offered, is Mollaei's life between 2019 and 2021.

"It was the hardest decision of my life because it meant giving up my life in order to compete as a normal person." Normality, that condition that is only understood once lost. Saeid rebuilt his life with parsimony and a non-negotiable goal: the Tokyo Olympics. "That's why I left Iran and that's why I haven't seen my family since 2019: to be here." Little by little, "step by step,” as he puts it, Saeid raised his head from under the water in Germany, where he has lived ever since.

"I barely spoke German. I was afraid of possible reprisals from the Iranian regime, not only for me, but for my wife and of course, my parents and brothers, who are still in Iran." Saeid has had to learn to look over his shoulder and resume his Olympic preparation. They are periods of four years, five this time. Any little misstep can cost a medal because judoka plan complex but necessary cycles to get to the peak on the right day. He also received a Mongolian passport, which has allowed him to participate in the race to Tokyo. “It was not the ideal preparation, quite the opposite. I've never lost hope because I knew I could get a good result in Japan." Mollaei took a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Saeid slept that night with the silver medal. "I have spent half the night kissing the medal."

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