Iran Awards $120,000 to Arash Miresmaeili for not Fighting An Israeli
Iran's official sporting body has awarded 120,000 dollars to its world judo champion Arash Miresmaeili for refusing to fight an Israeli during the Athens Olympics, a newspaper report said Saturday. "Miresmaeili's act was extremely valuable, and therefore we are awarding him the gold medalist award," the head of the Iranian Physical Education Organisation, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, was quoted as saying in the official daily Iran.
The sum is the same amount awarded to Hossein Rezazadeh, who won a gold medal in weightlifting.
The paper said the Iranian National Olympics Committee had also given Miresmaeli its gold medalist cash payout of 5,000 dollars for what they also termed as a "valuable action."
Miresmaeili's move was praised by Iran's President Mohammad Khatami, who said the snub was a "great act of self-sacrifice" and a protest against "massacre, terrorism and usurpation".
Miresmaeili, who was bidding to become the first Iranian to win an Olympic judo medal, said he was refusing to fight an Israeli as a gesture of support for the Palestinians.
The 23-year-old, twice a winner of the flyweight world title, opted not to take on first round opponent Ehud Vaks of Israel.
But he was later eliminated from the competition when he failed to make the weight for the planned contest in Athens. He was two kilograms (4.4 pounds) overweight.
Although he was suspected of intentionally gaining body weight to avoid fighting an Israeli opponent, the International Judo Federation (IJF) said he will not be punished.
The IJF also said Thursday that the 23-year-old Iranian, who carried his country's flag in the opening ceremony, had denied suggesting he would boycott his opening match.