Syrian judoka Ziad Aun registered on Tuesday for the Grand Prix Tel Aviv 2020 tournament and will be the first athlete from Syria to compete officially in Israel.
Aun, 35, now lives in Holland because of the Syrian civil war and has represented the refugee team for the past three years in the under 66-kilogram weight class. He could meet two Israelis in his matches: Baruch Smailov and Tal Flicker.
Moshe Ponte, the chairman of the Israel Judo Association, said they were very excited about Aun’s participation and called it the fruit of the efforts the association has made in recent years. “This is slow, hard behind- the-scenes work. The fact that a Syrian athlete is coming to Israel demonstrates that Israeli judo has earned international status,” said Ponte.
Judo Association representatives recently approached Iranian judoka, Saeid Mollaei, about coming to Israel for the Grand Prix, too. Mollaei fled his country in August after being ordered to throw a match to avoid a bout against Israeli Sagi Muki. Mollaei, who recently received Mongolian citizenship, met with members of the Israeli delegation at the Masters competition in Qingdao, China, two weeks ago.
The Tel Aviv competition is part of the International Judo Federation’s Grand Prix series and will be held from January 23 through January 25 at the Drive In (Shlomo Group) Arena.