By Duncan Mackay in Singapore
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

August 15 - Politics overshadowed the inaugural Summer Youth Olympic Games here today when Israeli taekwondo fighter Gili Haimovich won a gold medal after Iranian fighter Mohammed Soleimani failed to show up for the final.

Haimovich, 17, waited several minutes until it was clear Soleimani would not appear before beginning his victory celebration.

The Iranians claimed that Soleimani did not compete of injury but the Israelis claimed it was politically motivated.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams said: "It is my understanding is that he was taken to hospital and unable to compete."

Soleimani also did not appear at the medals ceremony alongside Haimovitz.

"Actually, I don't want to get into politics or that kind of thing,"said Haimovitz.

"I don't know.

"I was a ready for a fight.

"If he came out or not, I don't care."

Alex Gilady, an IOC member from Israel who awardd the medals for the competition, said he doubted Soleimani was injured and required hospital treatment.

He insisted this was a strategy to ensure Iran did not violate Olympic rules.

Gilady said that once Soleimani was deemed injured he would win the silver medal and would have "to stand on the podium and listen to the Israeli anthem and see the Israeli flag over the Iranian flag."

"They put him in an ambulance so at least they would not create a crisis that would have demanded further action," he added.

"So it looks like everything is okay."

Iran does not recognise Israel and has a policy of not competing against its athletes.

At the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, Iran's wheelchair basketball team forfeited its game against the United States and withdrew from the Games, avoiding a possible match against Israel.

Iranian officials said the forfeit was prompted by a scheduling change.

At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Iranian Arash Miresmaeili, a two-time world judo champion, refused to compete against Israel's Ehud Vaks in the opening round.

He acknowledged he was showing solidarity for the Palestinian cause.

"It's a shame that politics prevailed over the sports fraternity and that Gili was not given the opportunity to prove himself against the Iranian on the mat," said Michel Madar, chief executive of the Israel taekwondo Federation.

"In any event, [Haimovich's medal] was a huge achievement that cannot be diminished."

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