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Palestinian Judoka Prepares for Olympic Appearance

The 28-year old father trains diligently both before and after work in the run-down facilities of Arab East Jerusalem.  Rmeileh is the first Palestinian to have qualified for the Olympics in Judo. He will join 4 other Palestinians for the worldwide events in the coming months.

Maher Abu Rmeileh is proud to earn the recognition of Olympic acceptance. Rmeileh looks forward to his first Olympic appearance after receiving the OK in a Judo qualifier held recently in Japan

During the opening ceremonies on July 27 Rmeileh will have the distinct honor of being the Palestinian flag bearer. 10 palestinians have participated in Olympic competition since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

When not working in his father’s scarf shop, Rmeileh trains in the Al Quds Sports Club. The facility looks like it is still frozen in the post-World War II state it had more than 50 years ago. Other practitioners utilize the cramped space as mats are rolled over the tile floors. Without changing rooms or wash facilities, most judoka change behind a curtain.

Now that the games approach nearer every day, Rmeileh has increased his training efforts both before and after work, with his father picking up slack when he is able. The Rmeileh family is well-known in Palestinian circles for athletics, with Abu’s uncles and brother’s having widespread recognition. Abu himself has trained since the age of seven with the support of his family.

While the Palestinian judoka practice in run down facilities like the Al Quds Sports Club, Israelis on the other side of town practice in state of the art facilities. The Israeli judoka have been active in inviting Palestinians to train in their facilities, however those who share the view of Abu and his coach refuse any joint practice or involvement until peace is achieved between the two ethnic groups.

Where sports may serve as a positive means of ambassadorship between the conflicting sides, a bitter past can be observed clouding the judgment of both sides. Politics in this case have unfortunately become a hindrance on what could possibly turn out to be a fruitful relationship on both groups of athletes.

OCA News Editor

Christian Bright is a professional sports commentator with keen interests in football, tennis and horse racing. His experience in the reporting on professional sports makes him a key asset to OCA’s coverage of athletic events and matches.