The Jerusalem Post reports that a Syrian swimmer, Bayan Jumah, withdrew from the eighth 50m freestyle preliminary heat today. Jumah’s lane was directly alongside Israeli swimmer Anya Gostomelsky‘s.
JPost did not include an explanation from Jumah or the Syrian Olympic Committee.
This is the second such incident of the Beijing Games. Earlier this week we wrote about Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei suddenly withdrawing from a 100m breaststroke preliminary heat in which an Israeli was to swim, ostensibly because of stomach pains. Despite the obvious political implications (Iran prohibits contact with Israelis) the IOC accepted Alirezaei’s explanation, and the issue has not been pursued further.
Gostomelsky, who failed to qualify for semifinals despite setting a new Israeli record, said, “I didn’t notice that the lane beside me was empty. It’s her problem.”
Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei withdrew from the 100-meter breaststroke prelims on Saturday, raising suspicion that he did so because an Israeli swimmer, Tom Beeri, was placed in the same heat. If Alrezaei did indeed pull out of the race for political reasons, Iran would face potential sanctions according to International Olympic Committee guidelines.
But the IOC has accepted Alirezaei’s explanation that he was experiencing stomach pains before his race and say that no violation has occurred.
An Iranian athlete withdrew from the judo tournament in Athens in 2004 to great praise because an Israeli athlete was competing. At that time, says CNN:
The Iranian president was quoted by the state news agency as saying the athlete’s actions would be “recorded in the history of Iranian glories” and declared that the nation considers him to be “the champion of the 2004 Olympic Games.”
Iran does not recognize Israel’s existence and prohibits contact with Israelis. Despite all that, Russia’s Israeli men’s basketball coach met and shook hands with the Iranian basketball team in Beijing on Sunday.