Winning a gold medal is usually a cause for unmitigated celebration. But not for Israel judo star Tal Flicker as he stood atop the podium at this week’s Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, having triumphed in the men’s half-lightweight division.
Instead of Hatikvah, Israel’s traditional national anthem, tournament organizers played the official music of the International Judo Federation (IJF).
Instead of the flag of Israel, the IJF’s logo was raised. “It was weird,” Flicker told CNN Sport from the IPIC Arena. “Israel is my country and I’m proud to be from Israel. “I sang Hatikvah because I don’t know anything else. This is my anthem.”
Flicker had feared this might happen, given the UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel and like most other Arab countries doesn’t recognize it as a state.
He said, “With or without the flag, I will face the difficulties and any rival in front of me. We’ll do anything to get to Abu Dhabi and end up on the podium. Everyone in this world knows where we’re from and which country we represent. I am the proudest in the world to be Israeli.”