NEW YORK (JTA) — An Israeli won a gold medal in the Youth Olympic Games when his Iranian opponent withdrew before the finals, citing injury.
Gili Haimovitz, 17, took home the gold Sunday in tae kwan do when Mohammad Soleimani pulled out of their match in the 106-pound category. The Iranian delegation said Soleimani had aggravated an injury and had been taken to a hospital for treatment, the Associated Press reported.
Israeli officials said that they had expected Iran to refuse to compete and that the withdrawal was politically motivated. Iran in the past has stated that its policy is to withdraw from competing against Israel because it does not recognize the country.
“When Gili won the semifinal, we knew the Iranian was making the final,” Daniel Oren, the head of the Israeli delegation at the Singapore Games, told AP. “Already we knew that the Iranians would not come."
An Iranian official did not respond to calls from the AP seeking comment.
A spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, Mark Adams, said, “My understanding is that he was taken to hospital and unable to compete.”
Haimovitz said he was happy to have won gold.
“Actually, I don’t want to get into politics or that kind of thing,” he said. “I don’t know. I was ready for a fight. If he came out or not, I don’t care.”