A Saudi Arabian judo athlete refused to participate in her first-round match at the Summer Olympics in Rio Sunday, reportedly to avoid an Israeli competitor in the next round.
Joud Fahmy may have withdrawn from the match to avoid fighting 25-year-old five-time Israeli champion, Gili Cohen. Fahmy would have had to go up against Cohen if she won her first round, which could have put her in an uncomfortable position due to the conflict between Israelis and Arabs, the Times of Israel reported.
However, the Saudi Olympic delegation said Fahmy withdrew because of injuries she had sustained in training, not because Saudis do not recognize Israel as a nation.
"Experienced player there is my understanding of the injury in her hand and presented it during training, the medical committee and recommended against participation in the judo competitions at the Rio Olympics today," the Saudi delegation tweeted late Sunday, according to a Bing translation.
.— (@saudiolympic) August 7, 2016
Cohen went on to face Fahmy's first-round opponent and lost to her in the second round.
The two countries had moved to improve diplomatic relations in a bilateral meeting last month.
Sunday's controversy wasn't the first time the Israelis have had problems at the Olympics, which started Friday. The Lebanese team refused to allow members of the Israeli team on their bus because it conflicted with political interests.