Rmeileh first Palestinian to officially qualify

JERUSALEM   ●    A judo champion from east Jerusalem has become the first Palestinian to qualify on points for the Olympics, winning entry to the London Games.

Maher Abu Rmeileh, 28, who comes from Jerusalem’s Old City, will join the Palestinian delegation heading to London this summer.

“Abu Rmeileh qualified on points and not by invitation like the others,” said Hani al-Halabi, who will head the Palestinian squad. “He deserved to qualify.”

Abu Rmeileh’s success  raised the number of Palestinian representatives to the Games to five

“For the first time in the history of Palestinian sport, one of the athletes got enough points to qualify for the Olympics.”

Until now, Palestinian athletes have participated in the Olympics by virtue of honorary invitations from the Olympic Committee, which are extended to countries that fail to reach qualifying standards.

“The fact that a Palestinian qualified to go to London is a great achievement for Palestinian sport,” Halabi said. Abu Rmeileh said he was “ecstatic” about competing in the Games. “I feel great. I am very happy to be the first Palestinian to qualify for the Olympics,” he said.

“I have achieved something great with my qualification – I got the 20 points needed.”

Fighters compete in events based on their weight and Abu Rmeileh will be in the 73kg (160 pounds) category.

The other four athletes who will compete in London are Bahaa al-Farra, a 400-metre runner from Gaza, Wurud Sawalha, an 800m runner from Nablus, Sabine Hazbun, a swimmer from Bethlehem who specialises in the 50m butterfly and 50m freestyle, and Ahmed Jibril, who lives in Egypt and competes in the 400m freestyle.

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