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15th Aug 2016

Egyptian Olympian explains why he refused handshake with Israeli opponent

He says there is no obligation to shake hands

Tom Victor

Islam El Shehaby, the Egyptian judoka who has come under fire for refusing to shake his opponent’s hand, has explained his actions.

El Shehaby lost his men’s +100kg first round bout with Israel’s Or Sasson, and says his actions – perceived as poor sportsmanship – were purely down to his opponent’s nationality.

“Shaking hand of your opponent is not an obligation written in the judo rules. It happens between friends and he’s not my friend,” El Shehaby told L’Esprit du Judo.

“Yesterday in + 100kg We Were 31 from all around the world. If I meet them, I shake the hand of 30 of them.

“I have no problem with Jewish people or any Other religion or different beliefs. For personal purpose, you can not ask me to shake the hand of anyone from this State [Israel], especially in front of the whole world.”

Judo - Olympics: Day 7Elsa/Getty Images

Sasson, who went on to win the bronze medal, told the Times of Israel he did not expect El Shehaby to agree to a handshake but offered his own hand out of “respect”.

“The Olympics is built on respect,” the Jerusalem-born judoka said, adding: “We have seen other incidents where Muslim athletes don’t shake hands with Israelis. It didn’t surprise me. I was ready for such a scenario.”

Sasson’s semi-final opponent, Teddy Riner of France, won gold in the +100 category.