Rio Olympics

Israeli Judoka Or Sasson Loses Semifinal to French Legend, but Medal Hopes Linger

Sasson holds his own against Teddy Riner, but finally loses by a wazari. He will go on to fight for bronze against Cuban Alex Garcia Mendoza. Egyptian el-Shahabi refused to shake hands after an earlier match.

Teddy Riner (FRA) of France and Or Sasson (ISR) of Israel compete.
Toru Hanai / Reuters

RIO DE JANEIRO - Israeli judoka Or Sasson lost a semifinal match at the Rio Olympics on Friday to world champion Teddy Riner, but still had a chance at winning a bronze medal in a consolation round in the men's 100 kilogram plus weight class.

After a long and tense match, in which first Sasson and then Riner got a penalty, the French judoka managed to apply a wazari and won by points.

Riner is the first judoka to ever win eight world championships.

Sasson will fight for the bronze against Cuban Alex Garcia Mendoza. The Cuban, ranked 30, proved to be one of the day's greatest surprises by mounting to the consolation round. Mendosa had defeated Sasson once, in 2015, in their one and only bout so far.

Sasson had defeated a judoka rated above him, Roy Meyer of the Netherlands, to secure a berth in the semifinals. Sasson is ranked fifth in the world in his weight class, while Meyer is in the fourth slot.

Before the match against Meyer, Sasson defeated Poland's Maciej Sarnacki by applying an early wazari, which qualified him for the quarterfinals.

Earlier the 26-year-old Sasson had been the subject of some political drama at the games when an Egyptian rival, Islam el-Shahabi, refused the ceremonial bow or to shake Sasson's hand when the Israeli defeated him by an ippon. 

After Sasson's faceoff with the Egyptian, Sasson extended his hand to el-Shahabi, but the Egyptian judoka refused the gesture and was booed by the audience.

Egypt's Islam el-Shahabi, blue, declines to shake hands with Israel's Or Sasson, white, after losing during the men's over 100-kg judo competition, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 12, 2016.
Markus Schreiber, AP

There had been reports before the match that the Egyptian may forfeit but he went ahead with the match.

Earlier this week, Israeli judoka Yarden Gerbi defeated Japan's Miku Tashiro to win the bronze medal in the women's 63 kilogram weight class, Israel's first medal at the Rio Olympics.

On Monday, Israeli judoka Sagi Muki lost to Georgia’s Lasha Shavdatuashvili in the bronze medal match, thus failing to win the first Israeli medal considered to be within reach at the Rio Olympics.