A high-profile week for Saudi athlete Tahani Al-Qahtani came to an end on Friday morning when she departed Tokyo 2020 after losing to Raz Hershko of Israel in the Judo Women’s +78 kg Round of 32 at Nippon Budokan arena.
Al-Qahtani had been the subject of intense media attention as she had, unlike several other Arab athletes, decided to not withdraw in protest from her contest against an Israeli athlete at Tokyo 2020.
The 21-year-old Saudi lost 11-0 to her opponent, who ended the contest with an ippon, the highest score that can be posted from a judo move.
Before taking to the mat, Al-Qahtani was given words of encouragement by Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal.
Her’s decision to participate received almost unanimous support in Saudi Arabia, with sports fans and high profile figures taking to social media to praise her for not giving up on a once in a lifetime opportunity.
She had became the last of the 33-athlete Saudi delegation to confirm her spot at Tokyo 2020 thanks to an invitation by the International Judo Federation on July 13, just 10 days before the start of the tournament.
It was while studying at King Saud University in Riyadh that Tahani Al-Qahtani took the first steps towards becoming a judoka.
Despite participating in several other sports, it was judo that proved to be her calling.
She won silver at the Saudi Women’s Championship 2019 and gold a year later. In 2020 Al-Qahtani joined the Saudi Judo Training Centre at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh and then gained valuable experience by setting up camp in Tashkent where she mixed with world champions, the Uzbekistan women’s judo team and other athletes from the World Judo Tour.
In June, Al-Qahtani took part in the World Judo Championships Hungary 2021 in the Kingdom’s colours.