US/World News

Iranian wrestler was ordered to throw bout to avoid facing Israeli

(JTA) – An Iranian wrestler acknowledged that he threw a bout at an international championship competition where he was favored for a gold medal rather than face an Israeli challenger in the next round. Alireza Karimi-Mashiani, 23, told the Iranian Students’ News Agency that when his coaches told him he would have to throw his match against Russia’s Alikhan Zabrailov “the world came crashing down on my head. All the hassles and tribulations that I had suffered for many months in training and away from my family in the hope of winning the gold medal passed in front of my eyes.” He added that he hoped that Iranian officials would honor their pledge to reward him for his sacrifice. The United World Wrestling championship for under-23 took place Saturday in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz.

Karimi-Mashiani said he had not withdrawn before the tournament started because his coaches believed that the Israeli competitor would be defeated in the first round. He was in the middle of his match with the Russian wrestler, which he was winning decisively, when his coaches began calling on him to lose the bout, according to video footage of the match. Russia’s Zabrailov won gold in the 86-kilogram category, and Israel’s Uri Kalashnikov took bronze.

“It is the second time that you have risen up against the oppression of the Palestinian people by abandoning your rights in an act of absolute submission,” said an official statement on the website of Iran’s youth and sports ministry referring to his throwing of a match at the World Youth Championships in 2013 rather than compete against an Israeli.

Karimi-Mashiani told ISNA, “I worked for months to get the gold medal and I could easily have gotten the gold medal of the world. I admit that Israel is cruel and oppressive, but if the officials of our sport can so easily ignore my work, is not it cruel? The wrestlers do not have a good financial situation, and only the pleasure for all of us is to win a global medal.”

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