| Last updated
An Iranian athlete left his country because he was told to lose on purpose at the World Judo Championships - and he has now won silver at the Tokyo Olympics for Mongolia.
Saeid Mollaei dedicated his medal to Israel after he won silver in judo last week (27 July).
He left Iran two years ago because they told him to throw the competition at the 2019 World Judo Championships to avoid an Israeli opponent.
Now representing Mongolia at the Olympics, he made a tribute to Israel following decades of political tension between Israel and Iran.
Reported by the Jerusalem Post, Mollaei spoke to an Israeli sports channel and said: "Thank you to Israel for all the good energy.
He added: "This medal is dedicated to you as well, and I hope Israelis is happy with this victory, todah."
Todah means 'thank you' in Hebrew.
Back in 2019, Mollaei was representing Iran at the World Judo Championships and made it all the way to the semi-final.
He was looking to defend his championship after winning gold at the previous event in Azerbaijan.
However, the Iranian authorities asked him to lose on purpose so he wouldn't fight in the final against Israeli champion Sagi Muki.
The International Judo Federation called Iran's actions 'a serious breach and gross violation of the statutes of the IJF, its legitimate interests, its principles and objectives' and suspended the country from the event for four years, with the ban running until September 2023.
Mollaei decided to flee his homeland and was granted asylum in Germany in August 2019, then became a Mongolian citizen in December that same year.
Muki and Mollaei went on to become friends.
Although Muki lost in the Olympic quarterfinal last week, he says that the was happy to see his mate win silver.
According to The Times of Israel, Muki said: "I'm super happy for Saeid.
"I know what he's gone through, and how much he wanted it. He's a very close friend of mine, and I'm so happy that he succeeded in achieving his dream. He deserves it - his journey is incredibly inspiring."
After training in an International judo competition in February, Mollaei told CNN that Israelis 'have been very good to me since I arrived'.
He added: "Today I have trained with the Israeli team and they have been very kind. That is something I will never forget."
Amazingly, the pair's friendship is said to be in the process of being adapted into a scripted TV series.
They sold the rights to their story to MGM/UA Television and Israel's Tadmor Entertainment, Deadline reported in March.
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read