TOKYO: Japanese media praised the decision by Saudi Arabian Judoka Tahani Al-Qahtani to play against Israeli Raz Hershko in the first round of the 78-kg class at the Tokyo Olympics Games on Friday.
Japan’s Asahi newspaper reported that the match “had drawn attention” after two athletes from Algeria and Sudan refused to play against their counterparts from Israel.
“Al-Qahtani was admitted by the International Olympic Committee as a wild card and became the second Saudi Arabian female judo athlete to participate in the Olympics since the 2012 London Olympics,” Asahi’s article stated.
Despite losing, the Japanese newspaper reported that the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee highlighted Al-Qahtani’s upcoming bout on Twitter 12 hours before the match, confirming her participation against her Israeli opponent.
“On that day, whether Al-Qahtani will stand on the tatami mat attracted attention in her home country and other Middle Eastern countries.”
The report added that the International Judo Federation commented in a post-match release, “This game shows that sports can transcend political and external influences.”
Meanwhile, Kyodo News Agency also reported on the Judo Olympic match, stating “Saudi woman fights with Israel: Impress Social Change.”
“Arab countries often abstain from playing against Israeli athletes…, but Al-Qahtani was proud to be a role model for women in her home country. Although she lost by one stroke in the back of her shoulders, she impressed the change in Saudi society.”
The Japanese news agency quoted Hershko saying, “The game has nothing to do with politics. It was a good match.”
Al-Qahtani’s inclusion and stance was also praised by the International Judo Federation. In a post-match release, it stated: “This match shows that sports can transcend political and external influences.”