Israel’s wait for a first Olympic medal in 16 years continued on Monday night after Sagi Muki was beaten in his U73kg bronze match on Monday night.
Fighting five times over the course of Monday, after receiving a bye into the second round, the first of his wins in the round of 32 was against Rok Draksic, whom he beat with an Ippon, just over two minutes into the bout. He then beat German Igro Wandtke with a waza-ari with just over a minute remaining, to set up a last eight clash, where facing American Nicholas Deplopolo, another Ippon sent him through to the last four.
Taking on the second ranked player in the world in Azerbaijan’s Rustam Orujov in the semi-final, what proved to be a tactical affair saw the 24-year-old Israeli find himself with three penalties with two minutes of the fight remaining – a fourth picked up rendering in him losing the match.
Meaning he had to go on the attack, while Orujov became more defensive in the final minute, Orujov claimed a yuko, which was enough to secure him the win.
Still though in contention to win a medal – Israel’s eighth in Olympic history – he took on Georgian Lasha Shavdatuashvili though was well shackled and marshalled throughout, and succumbed two minutes from the end by an Ippon.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “I’m kind of disappointed because it’s my dream. I’m not settling for just anything.. That’s how I was raised.. It’s painful and uncomfortable, but if I’m looking at two months back, who would have thought I’d manage to get on the mat.
“Two months ago I ripped the two straps ankle right before the masters tournament, it was my biggest crisis to happen just before the Olympics. With treatment from Nimrod Moshe, I was able to get on the mat again, although for three weeks before the Games, I wasn’t able to train. But I was raised to fight and not give up. Looking insanely optimistic about everything.. at the end of the day I’m happy that in spite of the pain, I proved to myself that no matter what, I can handle anything. I’ve dealt with these injuries like a lion.
“I want to say thank you to my coach Oren Smadja, who’s been with me since I was four, and who has always guided me. I also want to thank my family, friends and all the people of Israel for the support and encouragement. I’m proud to represent a country like ours.
“Thanks for sharing this amazing journey with me, I’ll take some rest and will be back healthy and strong towards the next journey, Tokyo 2020!”