Judo star quits Israel and could line-up for GB

Judo star quits Israel and could line-up for GB

Olympics Day 4 - Judo
Schlesinger (blue) in action at the 2012 London Olympics

One of Israel’s most promising athletes could represent Great Britain at the 2016 Rio Olympics after she announced she would no longer fight for Israel, claiming officials had tried to “destroy her career”.

Judo star Alice Schlesinger, who won bronze at the World Championships, as well as reaching the quarter-finals at both the 2008 & 2012 Olympic Games, was almost in tears when announcing her decision, claiming that Moshe Ponte, the chairman of the Israeli Judo Association, said he wouldn’t allow her to represent Israel at the 2016 Games in Rio.

The 25-year-old said: “A few days after London [Olympics], Ponte summoned me for a talk and I understood from him that all he wanted was for me to no longer be in judo. He said that even if I were ranked first in the world, I wouldn’t be in Rio, and he alone would decide who would be at the Olympics.

“I understood that he was trying to destroy my career. He said I had to switch to competing in the 70 kilogram category, when he understood that I wasn’t budging on the weight issue, he demanded I train under my rival’s trainer, for me that was a red line.

“I felt betrayed. I felt that all the time I’d devoted to the sport and all the things I gave up for judo had been erased. Ponte got up one morning and decided I wouldn’t be there. This was a knife in the back. I’d given all my life to realise my dreams in judo.”

Schlesinger also accused Ponte and his staff of smearing her in the media and claimed they labelled her trainer – her boyfriend Pavel Musin – of being a money-grabber. She said: “They conducted a character assassination against me and lied to the press. Ponte won – I will no longer represent Israel in judo.”

However, still wanting to continue to fight, she could now turn out for GB. “There are enough countries that would want me to represent them,” she said. “I fought to represent the State of Israel, and I wanted to remain here and fight for my place, for my flag and my anthem. When I understood that it wouldn’t happen here, I understood, despite the pain, that I need to move on. I wasn’t born yesterday, I’m an athlete with titles, and I’m convinced there will be many countries that will want me, instead of staying here and knowing I won’t be in Rio.”

Schlesinger has already paid visits to Azerbaijan and Turkey, while her mother is British, which could pave the way for her to represent GB.

The Israeli Judo Association says Schlesinger’s claims were “a heap of half-truths, errors, inaccuracies and even lies”. A statement read: “The false accusations against Ponte are unfounded, as will become clear later on. Her allegations against the management constitute ingratitude to those who rehabilitated the sport.”

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