The World Judo Championship in Osaka, Japan came to an end yesterday with Gal Yekutiel taking ninth place in the under-63 kilogram class. Overall the championship was a disappointment for Israel with European Champion Arik Ze'evi and medal hopeful Udi Wax failing to impress.
But the real story as far as Israel is concerned was Daniela Kurkower's gold medal in the women's under-63 kilo class. Kurkower, 28, used to represent Israel, but left the country four years ago after claiming that she did not receive adequate support from the country's sporting authorities. She represented Argentina at the Sydney Olympics and until now her best achievement was a silver medal at the Pan-American Games in 1999.
Israel Judo Association chairman Edi Koaz yesterday denied that Kurkower was denied adequate funding. "Daniela received all the support we could give her. In many competitions each country can only send one athlete and Daniela was second at the time to Einat Yaron (who was to have represented Israel at Sydney but had to pull out after being diagnosed with cancer). She received all the necessary help, including a change of coach when she asked for one. But she decided that she could get ahead further if she represented Argentina and we didn't try to stop her. Perhaps she would have reached the same achievements with Israel and perhaps if Einat was healthy, she would have faced her in the final. It's all speculation."
Kurkower, for her part, said that although she would have been happier to see the Israeli flag hoisted in Osaka, she had no intention of representing Israel again. "Argentina gave me the chance to be a world champion and Israel didn't. Israeli sport is all about politics and sports men and women don't need to be invlolved in that."
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