Israeli judokas took gold, silver and bronze medals at the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan over the weekend.
Competing in the men's under-73 kilograms competition on Friday, Sagi Moki won gold after a glorious run that included four ippons and a victory over the outgoing European champion. It was Moki's first win in a major international tournament.
Even more surprising was the silver won by Ori Sasson in the over-100 kilogram competition. Unlike Moki, who is established in his weight class and entered the tournament ranked seventh in the world, Sasson, 24, is a lot less experienced and entered the tournament with a world ranking of 36.
Sasson lost in the finals to the giant Georgian Adam Okruashivili, ranked second in Europe for the past two years.
Israel's Yarden Gerbi, previously ranked second in Europe, took home a bronze medal after losing in the semi-finals of the women's under-63 kilograms competition.
Moki, 23, from Netanya, appeared to be more focused than his Georgian rival Nugzari Tatalashvli throughout the final, ensuring his victory with a final ippon.
Moki has been training since childhood with Oren Smadja, coach of the Israeli men's team at the European Games.
"I am happy that I was able to express my judo in the best way possible in the competition," Moki said after his victory. "I felt very sharp and strong. I always believed that I could do it."
Moki has been regarded as one of Israel's most talented and promising judokas for several years, though he had never won a major tournament prior to the Baku games.
He now joins the very short list of Israelis who are capable of making it to the podium at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next summer.
None of the nine Israeli competing in the first day of the judo competition on Thursday made it into the last 16.
“This was a bit of a disappointing day,” said Shany Hershko, coach of the Israel women’s team. “We had some close calls and we will have to do our homework."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now