Israel claimed their second bronze medal of the Olympic Games on Friday night when Or Sasson beat Alex Garcia Mendoza to win bronze in the 100+kg event.
The country’s first heavyweight judoka, the 25-year-old had been denied a place in the final in heartbreaking fashion only 30 minutes earlier, but coming out in determined mood, was in control against his Cuban opponent throughout and sealed his medal by virtue of receiving one less penalty.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “I felt it was going to happen. I worked so hard. I am so happy for the Israel, for myself, and for my family. Today I was a warrior.”
Emotional as he continued to speak, he added: “My dream came true in front of my eyes. I have worked so hard for this. I’ve had so many wins and so many losses and today was my day. I defeated all my fears. Two years ago I was considered a medal candidate in competitions, but I didn’t believe it deep inside. I only started believing in the past couple of weeks and everything fell into place.”
Congratulated over the phone by both President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Shabbat ended in Israel, Netanyahu told him: “Every boy and girl saw not only a great athlete but a man with values. You showed the true face of Israel, its beautiful face.”
Rivlin told him: “We were excited with you and we are proud of you. You brought our country honour when you walked up to your Egyptian opponent to shake his hand. All of Egypt is talking about you.”
Speaking about the controversial ending of his first fight, when his Egyptian opponent Islam El Shehaby refused to shake his hand – since which the Egyptian Olympic Association have said they’re to open an investigation following the snub – Sasson said: “He was very emotional, full of hate, I felt he was more nervous than usual.
“I came to do my job and coped with the situation well. Judo is built on mutual respect, but unfortunately that was not the case.”
The first Jerusalem-born athlete to win a medal, his father, Itzhak, said: “He told me that he will win a medal and I always felt that he would do it. He did it in style against the best judokas in the world. I can’t describe how happy I am. It is a dream come true.”