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Islam El-Shehaby: I’ve respected the rules of my sport
Judoka Islam El-Shehaby has given his account of the events that transpired after the loss to his Israeli opponent on Friday.
El-Shehaby was jeered out of the Olympic arena in Rio on Friday after refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent, Or Sasson.
Sasson defeated El-Shehaby by ippon (full point) in their heavyweight first round encounter, but at the end of the bout he refused to shake the Israeli’s hand, choosing to simply perform the customary bow beforehand.
Nicolas Messner, a spokesman for the International Judo Federation, said judokas are not obligated to shake hands under IJF rules, only to bow, which El-Shehaby did.
“Nevertheless, after the Games the situation will be studied and analysed to see if further action must be taken,” he told Reuters.
Messner said that even though El-Shehaby ultimately bowed, “his attitude will be reviewed after the games to see if any further action should be taken.”
El-Shehaby talked to L’Espirit du Judo after the incident, to clarify his position: “It was a human reaction. Shaking hand of your opponent is not an obligation written in the judo rules. It happens between friends and he’s not my friend.
“I’ve been fighting for 15 years now. I shake the hand of almost my opponents. Most of them are friends of mine, no matter of the results of our fights. Most of the time I’m even the one who starts to make the first step towards them and shake their hand,” he continued.
“Yesterday in 100kg+ we were 31 from all around the world. If I meet them, I shake the hand of 30 of them. I want to stress that I have no problem with Jewish people or any other religion or different beliefs. But for personal reasons, you can’t ask me to shake the hand of anyone from this state, especially in front of the whole world.
“Everybody knew that I wouldn’t shake his hand but the way it ended made me the bad guy of the story in front of the world.
“I nodded at my opponent at the mat as it is written in the rules. I’ve respected the rules of my sport. Please respect my personal reasons,” he concluded.
Islam El-Shehaby is a four-time Olympian, as well as a nine-time African champion. He finished in third place to win the bronze medal at the 2010 World Championships.