DUBAI/JEDDAH: Saudi karate star Tarek Hamdi was denied a Tokyo 2020 Olympic title on Saturday by a bizarre refereeing decision — but as far as his fans are concerned, his silver medal was as good as gold.
Hamdi, 23, was 4-1 up in the Nippon Budokan arena and heading for victory when he floored his Iranian opponent Sajad Ganjzadeh with a perfectly executed high kick. As the Iranian was carried off on a stretcher and Hamdi began to celebrate his win, the Turkish referee disqualified the Saudi for an “unchecked attack” — and awarded the match to Ganjzadeh.
Hamdi’s fans were both mystified and outraged. “What next?” said one. “A red card for a footballer for kicking the ball too hard?”
Twitter erupted in support for the young Saudi denied his gold medal. @bg_alasraj tweeted: “How can I not feel proud of the champ when I see the Iranian lying on the floor and the Saudi hero standing like a mountain.”
@999saudsalman said: “In the eyes of anyone impartial, Tarek Hamdi is a gold medalist.”
One user described Ganjzadeh as “the unconscious gold medalist,” and memes circulated of the Iranian lying comatose on the first-place podium.
In fact, Ganjzadeh made a miraculous recovery in time for the medal ceremony, and walked unaided to receive his gold. He admitted: “I’m sad that I had to win it like this.”
There was better news on the karate mat for Egypt, with Feryal Abdelaziz winning only her country’s second gold medal since 1948. But then her opponent was Iryna Zaretska of Azerbaijan — not a horizontal Iranian.