It would have been a “Kumbaya” moment in Singapore on the first day of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games: a 17-year old Israeli locked in fierce but friendly battle with his Iranian counterpart in the under-106-pound tae kwon do competition.
The scene of international sportsmanship was scuttled, however, when the Iranian contestant, Mohammad Soleimani, pulled out of competition against the Israeli, Gili Haimovitz, citing a recently aggravated injury.
Haimovitz won the gold medal — Israel’s first in the competition — by default, having already bested Kirk Barbosa of the Philippines and Nicholas Guzman of Argentina. “I knew beforehand that if I was matched up against the Iranian, there was a chance he would withdraw, but I really wanted to compete against him. It’s a shame he didn’t show,” Haimovitz told Haaretz.