Iranian top judoka Saeid Mollaei received a Mongolian passport on Sunday. This makes his participation in the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year another step closer.
Iran demanded in August that Mollaei withdraw from the World Cup in Tokyo, because chances were that the defending champion in the class up to 81 kilograms would face Israeli Sagi Muki in the final. Iran does not recognize Israel as a country.
The 27-year-old Mollaei did not comply with the wishes of his country and was subsequently put under considerable pressure by the authorities, who allegedly threatened to put his family in trouble. He deliberately lost his match in the semi-finals and has been in hiding ever since. The Iranian judo association has suspended him indefinitely.
Mollaei will make its first appearance under the Mongolian flag at the Masters tournament in Qingdao, China, on December 12. Initially he would come out for an international refugee team. Judo federation IJF has already recognized Mollaei as a Mongolian judoka.
Mollaei expects to go to Play
With that recognition, his participation in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 seems to be another step closer. The top judoka says he already has the guarantee from the (IJF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that he can take action in Japan next year.
"It is my biggest goal and I will do what I can. I am already in full training. I want to go to the Games to grab the only medal that I still miss: Olympic gold," Mollaei said in September.
It is not the first time that such an incident has occurred in judo. At the 2004 Games, Iranian world champion Arash Mirasmaeili refused to take on Israeli Ehud Vaks and three years ago Islam El Shehaby was sent home from Egypt after refusing to shake hands with Or Sasson from Israel.