Iranian judoka fears for safety after refusing to quit World Championships

    Mollaei celebrates after winning the men under 81kg category at the 2018 Judo World Championships.

    (CNN)Saeid Mollaei should have been focusing on the defence of his World Judo Championship title. Instead, the Iranian judoka was fretting about his safety and his family's safety.

    While competing in Tokyo, Mollaei claims his coach received two calls from the Iranian authorities instructing him to withdraw his fighter from the tournament to avoid the possibility of meeting Israeli judoka Sagi Muki in the final.
    The 27-year-old Mollaei ignored the warnings, but despite losing in the last four he fears repercussions back home in Iran. For years, Iranian athletes have been prohibited from competing against Israelis.
      "I need help," Mollaei said in an interview with International Judo Federation (IJF).
      "Even if the authorities of my country told me that I can go back without any problems, I am afraid. I am afraid of what might happen to my family and to myself.
      "Today, the National Olympic Committee of Iran and the Sport Minister told me to not compete, that I had to comply with the law. I am a fighter.
      "I want to compete wherever I can. I live in a country whose law does not permit me to. We have no choice, all athletes must comply with it. All I did today was for my life, for a new life."

      Previous history

      Mollaei and Muki's potential fight in the World Judo Championships should have been an historic opportunity.