Alice in wonderland ahead of Rio 2016


ISRAEL’S loss will be Team GB’s gain if Alice Schlesinger has anything to do with it.

Schlesinger’s defection two years ago to represent Britain in judo still rankles with Israeli officials.

The two-time Olympian switched allegiances following a conflict with Israel Judo Association president Moshe Ponte. Refusing to allow her boyfriend, Pavel Musin, to coach her, was the final straw, according to Schlesinger, in a string of disputes with IJA.

Schlesinger, who won bronze at the World Championships in 2009, claimed the association president had tried to ruin her chances of competing in Rio.

Despite approaches from other national federations, Herzliya-born Schlesinger, 28, opted to compete for Great Britain, where she is qualified via her English mother.

Schlesinger, who reached the quarter-finals at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, was soon parachuted in after winning the British Judo Championships under-63kg title in Sheffield last year.

Now just months after taking gold in the -63kg class to clinch her first Grand Slam title, Schlesinger, who is believed to be the only Jewish competitor in the GB squad, is now an outside bet to win a medal.

She said: “What happened is all behind me. I have moved on. We all have. It wasn’t a great time and it was a difficult couple of years.

“I even thought at one point that my judo career was over. Not competing was really hard and I found it tough until I returned to the gym. There was so much politics involved.”

Schlesinger will do her all to be on the rostrum. She is ruthless and has proven that by having already beaten her former Israeli team-mates turned rivals in numerous global competitions.

Ranked 11th in the world in her division, Schlesinger has been arguably British judo’s most consistent performer on the international stage over the past 18 months.

With only three competition finishes outside the top eight since 2015, Schlesinger said: “My relationship with the coaches and athletes has been good. It’s been a smooth transition into the team and everyone has accepted me. I feel like I’ve been here for a long time.”

Schlesinger could line up against former team-mate Yaron Gerbi in Brazil. The Israeli will be looking to add to her gold and silver medals won at the World Championships.

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