Israeli judoka makes history with gold medal at World Championships

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Sagi Muki of Israel won the gold medal at the 2019 World Judo Championships, becoming the first male in his country to accomplish the feat.

Muki defeated Belgium’s Matthias Casse in the finals of the under-81 kilogram (179 pounds) category on Wednesday. The tournament was held at the Nippon Budokan, which will be a venue for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In the quarterfinals, Mohamed Abdelaai of Egypt refused to shake Muki’s hand at the end of the match, which is considered a sign of disrespect. Other Arab opponents have acted similarly after losing to Israelis, including Egyptian and United Arab Emirates judokas.

Muki, 27, of Netanya, joins Yarden Jarbi as Israelis taking gold at the World Judo Championships. Jarbi won in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 in the women’s under-63 kilogram (139 pounds) category.

Muki also won at the 2015 and 2018 European Championships. He was expected to medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio but was hampered by injury and lost in the semifinals.