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Sudanese Judoka quits Olympics to avoid facing Israeli opponent

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Sudanese judoka Mohamed Abdalrasool (file photo)

Sudanese judoka Mohamed Abdalrasool has withdrawn from the 2020 Summer Olympics in the Japanese capital city of Tokyo, becoming the second athlete to pull out of the international multi-sport event to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.

Sudan’s Abdelrasool didn’t show up to face Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the men’s 73kg division on Monday, despite weighing in for the bout earlier, Palestine's official Wafa news agency reported

The Sudanese athlete made the decision to drop out of the Tokyo Olympics following a same measure by Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine on Thursday after the draw set him on course for a possible showdown against Butbul in the second round of the under-73kg men’s judo competition.

Nourine, who was sent home from the Tokyo Olympics, was set to face Abdalrasool on Monday for his first bout.

The 30-years-old athlete announced his withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics a day before the games were set to officially open, citing his political support for the Palestinian cause as the reason behind his decision.

"We worked very hard to reach the Olympics but the Palestinian cause is greater than these things and this is an irreversible decision," he said.

Nourine’s coach Amar Ben Yaklif also said, “We were not lucky with the draw. We had an Israeli rival and that is why we had to withdraw. We have made the right decision.” 

It is not the first time that Nourine has withdrawn from competition to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.

Back in 2019, he withdrew from the Judo World Championships in Tokyo when he was also drawn to face Butbul.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shahaby also quit the games, just hours after refusing to shake the hand of his victorious Israeli rival Or Sasson in the first round of the men’s over-100kg competition.

Last April, the International Judo Federation (IJF) imposed a four-year ban against the Islamic Republic of Iran Judo Federation (IRIJF) over Tehran’s demands that Iranian athletes refuse to face Israeli opponents since the Islamic Republic strongly supports the Palestinian cause and does not recognize Israel.

The Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8. Some preliminary events kicked off on July 21.

The games will see karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding make their Olympic debuts.

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