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Israeli fencer Yuval Freilich at the Qatar Grand Prix, January 31, 2024 (FIE (Fédération Internationale d'Escrime) on X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

‘Hatikva’ in Qatar: Israel Fencer Yuval Freilich Wins Gold, en Route to Paris Olympics

Israeli fencer Yuval Freilich won gold in the Doha Grand Prix on Wednesday, January 31, sparking a rare scene — the Israeli national anthem being played during wartime in Qatar, a country that does not have ties with Israel.

The 29-year-old former European champion wore a shirt with the words “Am Yisrael chai” (the people of Israel live) embossed in Hebrew on the Israeli flag when he defeated one of the world’s top fencers, world champion Yannick Borel of France, with a score of 9:15, moving him one step closer to advancing to the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Gili Lustig, the CEO of the Olympic Committee, called Freilich’s win “an impressive achievement in an Olympic-level tournament”. “The win in Qatar and waving the Israeli flag in times like these on this unique stage is Israeli pride at its peak,” Lustig was quoted as saying.

Freilich became the first Israeli fencer to win a European championship in Germany in 2019. The 29-year-old fencer grew up in the Judea and Samaria settlement of Neve Daniel. He is the son of Australian immigrants and has been fencing since age five. He won two gold medals in teen championships in 2014 and 2015 and a silver in the under-23 category in 2016.

The playing of the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva” during the medal ceremony in Doha came weeks after two Israeli soccer players were deported from Turkey for making a gesture of sympathy to the hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since the terror group’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel. (TOI / VFI News)