Iranian freestyle wrestler Alireza Karimi has spoken of his disappointment after being told he had to lose a fight in order to avoid meeting an Israeli opponent at the U23 World Championships in Poland.
Speaking to the ISNA agency, the 23-year-old said: “I had trained so hard and firmly believed in the world title. But then came the instruction (from his coach) and it was like a bucket of cold water on all my dreams.”
Karimi was winning his match against Russian Alikhan Zhabrailov, before the match was stopped so he could speak to his coach. Winning 3-2 at the time, he went on to lose 14-3.
Israeli Uri Kalashnikov, who would have taken on Karimi in the next round, went on to win bronze at the the Bydgoszcz Championships.
Iranian wrestler Alireza Karimi about to beat Russian, but will have to face Israeli next round. His coach his calling him from the sidelines, telling him to “lose.” Iran forbids its athletes to play Israeli’s. Iranian wrestler gives up. pic.twitter.com/nX9KHaH8Jn
— Thomas Erdbrink (@ThomasErdbrink) November 27, 2017
Backed by both his government Iranian wrestling federation, a statement on the website of the youth and sports ministry said: “Your noble and heroic action in the world competition in Poland, abandoning the medal and the podium in support of the highest human values, is a source of pride and praise.”
Alluding to how it was the second time he had taken such action, the Iranian Wrestling Federation said: “It is the second time that you have risen up against the oppression of the Palestinian people by abandoning your rights in an act of absolute submission.”
Karimi was billed as one of the favourites for gold and now wants the Iranian Wrestling Federation to pay him the bonus of 60 gold coins he would have earned from the win.