What happens when an Israeli and an Iranian both make the taekwondo finals at the International Olympic Committee’s Youth Games? Positively nothing. That’s because Mohammad Soleimani of Iran didn’t show up.
Officially, he withdrew because of an aggravated old injury. But the IOC is looking into the credibility of that claim. And 3 Wire Sports thinks it should be suspicious:
When, in 2004, at the Athens Olympics, Iranian judo competitor Arash Miresmaeli, a two-time world champ, refused to take to the mat for a first-round match against Ehud Vaks of Israel, Iranian officials later awarding Miresmaeli $120,000 — the going rate there for a gold medal — for what was called a “great act of self-sacrifice.”
When, if Soleimani had gone on to fight, there was of course the risk he might lose — in which case he would suffer the indignity not only of loss but of standing on the podium while the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, rang out.
So, as it turned out, the anthem sounded, with Haimovitz on the top of the podium. To his left, the American and Argentinian shared the third-place stand. The second-place stand — it was empty.
This story only makes me appreciate the handshake last season between Omri Casspi and Hamed Haddadi. But here’s what I don’t understand: If Iranians don’t like, or even hate, Israelis, why would they withdraw from a fight?