Saeid Mollaei, the 2018 World Champion in below 81kg, who was caught in a controversy with his home country Iran during the World Championships, will now compete under the colours of Mongolia.
During the World Championships in Tokyo in August, Saeid was instructed by the Iranian officials and the federation to withdraw from the below 81kg competition to avoid a potential match against Israeli judoka Muki Sagi.
After lodging a protest with the International Judo Federation, the 27-year-old Tehran native fled to Berlin where he was seeking asylum. German granted him refugee status last month
Iran’s refusal to allow its exponents to go up against Israeli opponents saw International Judo Federation (IJF) suspending the Iran Judo Federation from all competitions, administrative and social activities organised or authorised by the IJA and its affiliated bodies.
Following the Osaka Grand Slam last month, in which he placed seventh in his return to competition since the events in Tokyo, he has been training in Mongolia. He took part in Osaka under the International Refugee Team status.
He recently met the President of the Republic of Mongolia and President of the Mongolian Judo Federation, Khaltmaagiin Battulga where he was handed the official papers symbolizing and confirming his new Mongolian citizenship.
Saeid will no longer part of the IJF refugee team and is expected to compete at the December Qingdao Masters under the Mongolian flag, as well as during the upcoming World Judo Tour events, in order to qualify for the Olympic Games.
Under existing IJF rules Saeid, who is still ranked world number three, could lose his points upon switching to another country.
Athletes with an official refugee status Judoka with an official refugee status, hosted by a country, can qualify themselves for IJF or continental union competitions through their host country national championships and consequently they will compete internationally under their host country flag. The National federation requests must be sent, with the official refugee status documents, to the IJF General Secretariat. If the documents sent are compliant, the agreement will be automatically given by the IJF General Secretary following confirmation by the IJF President. If there is a change in the status of the official refugee i.e. citizenship of a new country, return to their country of origin etc. The nationality change process must be followed. For events organised by the IJF or under its auspices, the IJF Executive Committee can authorise that judoka with an official refugee status can compete under the IJF flag. If there is a change in the status of the official refugee who competed under the IJF flag i.e. citizenship of a new country, return to their country of origin etc. the IJF Executive Committee would make a decision concerning the change of nationality and the world ranking points that the athlete has.
Either way, Saeid will have his hands full to qualify for the Olympic with Mongolia also having two top ranked exponents in the below 81kg category – Otgonbaatar Uuganbaatar is ranked 17th and Nyamsuren Dagvasuren is ranked 27th.