Saudi Arabia’s Tahani al-Qahtani, one of 33 athletes representing the Kingdom at the Tokyo Olympics this year, has received widespread support online ahead of her match up against Israeli competitor Raz Hershko on Friday.
Al-Qahtani, one of two Saudi female Olympians currently in Tokyo, was drawn into the women's Judo event in the 78 kg category in the round 32.
According to informed sources who spoke to pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Saudi Arabia’s delegation gave the al-Qahtani the green light to confront her Israeli counterpart in order to spare her and the Saudi Judo Federation any international Olympic sanctions they may impose.
Thousands of tweets on Sunday showed support for al-Qahtani, with the hashtags “Tahani al-Qahtani” and “We are all Tahani al-Qahtani” trending on the social media platform in Saudi Arabia for most of the day.
“Don't quit and face her. Withdrawal fake tournaments. Win or lose, you are a hero in our eyes. Good luck, the pride of the country,” Saudi twitter user Ghadah Alghunaim tweeted.
The International Judo Federation on Saturday suspended Algerian judo athlete Fethi Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef for withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics before his event started, after the draw set him on course for a match against an Israeli counterpart.