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Israeli judoka Tal Flicker: ‘Sport should overcome all the politics’

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Story highlights

Israeli judoka admits experience at Abu Dhabi grand slam still feels "bittersweet"

Tournament organizers in UAE refused to raise Israel flag or play anthem

Israel hosting this week's European Judo Championships in Tel Aviv

IJF president meets Israeli prime minister

CNN —  

As Tal Flicker prepares to fight for gold on home soil at this week’s European Judo Championships, the memories of the last time he stood upon the podium come flooding back.

Six months have passed since the Israeli triumphed in the half-lightweight division at Abu Dhabi’s IPIC Arena, a sporting feat blighted by geopolitics that generated headlines around the world.

“I think it is the same feeling; it is still bittersweet,” Flicker tells CNN Sport, having sung Hatikvah in quiet defiance when tournament organizers refused to play his country’s traditional national anthem.

“Of course, winning a gold medal at a grand slam was very sweet but, at the same time, sport and politics should not mix.

“I think sport should overcome all the politics.”

READ: UAE officials apologize to Israel judo team following handshake snub

Israel's Tal Flicker says he hopes sport can build bridges ahead of this week's European Judo Championships in Tel Aviv.
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Israel's Tal Flicker says he hopes sport can build bridges ahead of this week's European Judo Championships in Tel Aviv.

Approximately 400 athletes from 44 nations are expected to travel to Tel Aviv for this week’s competition.

’A positive experience for all participants’

And Flicker isn’t the only one that hopes such discrimination – engendered because the UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel and doesn’t recognize it as a state – never occurs again.

Former Olympic judoka Moshe Ponte, now president of the Israel Judo Association, believes the Championships offer a chance to showcase the nation on the 70th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to organize these important Championships,” said Ponte.

“We firmly believe that a Judo tournament should be a positive experience for all participants sportsmen, coaches, staff and audience alike.”

Tal Flicker quickfire questions

Proudest achievement?

  • Winning bronze at the Budapest 2017 World Championships.
  • Judo idols growing up?

  • I really liked the Japanese. They have a good technique and they are the best judo players in the world.