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Tal Ficker finishes with a flurry to close in on world number one spot
26 Oct 2017 19:45
Israelian Tal Flicker saved his best performance for his fourth and final contest at the Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi as he dismissed European bronze medallist Nijat Shikhalizada of Azerbaijan in a battle of U66kg livewires. The final final, perhaps even contest of all at the first day.
World bronze medallist Flicker had form at the Grand Slam level coming into the competition after winning in Baku and it came as no surprise when the world number two threw his Azeri opponent with a morote-seoi-nage for ippon with 25 seconds left. Flicker will be expected to make his World Masters debut in December while world number 13 Shikhalizada will also be a contender in St. Petersburg at the final event of the season.
In the first semi-final Flicker defeated Asian Championships silver medallist Yeldos Zhumakanov (KAZ) in golden score when the Kazakh judoka received a second shido. In the second semi-final Shikhalizada came from behind to defeat Ekaterinburg Grand Slam winner Abdula Abdulzhalilov (RUS). The Russian led by a waza-ari before Shikhalizada levelled and then scored a second waza-ari which saw him through after four minutes.
The first bronze medal was won by Abdulzhalilov who emphatically defeated Antalya Grand Prix bronze medallist Davaadorj Tumurkhuleg (MGL) with a thunderous sode-tsurikomi-goshi for ippon.
The second bronze medal went to world bronze medallist Vazha Margvelashvili (GEO) after a head dive from Zhumakanov as he tried to avoid giving away a score but in the process endangered himself and broke the rules to receive hansoku-make. Paris Grand Slam bronze medallist Margvelashvili continues to make waves in the U66kg category and the 24-year-old will be invited to the World Masters for the first time in December.
Flicker and all other Israeli athletes in the tournament were forbidden to compete under the Israeli flag. Thus, when Flicker ascended the winners podium, not only was his flag not displayed, but the organizers refused to play the Israeli national anthem, substituting instead the anthem of the International Judo Federation. And so Flicker quietly sang the Israeli anthem, HaTikvah, himself. “Israel is my country, and I’m proud to be Israeli,” Flicker told Israel’s Channel 2 news after the event. “The anthem that they played of the world federation was just background noise. I was singing HaTikvah from my heart.”
“I’m proud of my country,” he said. “The whole world knows that we’re from Israel, knows who we represent. The fact that they hid our flag, it’s just a patch on our flag.”
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