Photo Credit: Roy Alima/Flash90
Sagi Muki, 2019 World Judo Champion under 81 kg

Israeli judoka Sagi Muki, 27, on Wednesday took the gold medal at the 2019 World Judo Championship in Tokyo, in the under 81 kg weight class.

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Israeli officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, New York Consul Dani Dayan and a host of others congratulated the athlete by telephone and on Twitter.

The Netanyahu-born judoka is the first Israeli male to win the prestigious title. He has already won gold medals at the European Championships in 2015 and 2018; this is his first world title.

An Iranian would-be opponent refused to fight him; his Egyptian quarter-final opponent, Mohammed Abdelaal, refused to shake his hand as is customary after his defeat.

Muki told reporters in Tokyo after the competition that he never lost faith that he could win, but acknowledge that it was “a very hard fight.

“I came close to losing but I gave it everything and I never stopped believing,” he said. “I’m glad I managed to keep up the pressure. This is my first time . . . and it’s a very special moment for me. I finally did it. It was a tough day.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.